FocusDuPont renews bio-based carpet roll-out

22 April 2008 22:19  [Source: ICIS news]

By Lane Kelley

HOUSTON (ICIS news)--DuPont, which reported record profits on Tuesday, is now touting nylon-free carpet and other renewable resource products as part of the company's shift towards agriculture and bio-sciences.

A recent survey released by DuPont and Mohawk Industries shows that consumers are willing to pay more for products such as carpet made from DuPont's Sorona corn-based polymer.

The survey found that a majority of the 1,001 US homeowners queried were willing to pay at least $5-8 (€4-5) more on a $100 item made with renewable resources.

"The survey confirms that people are becoming much savvier" about environmental issues, said Peter Hemken, vice president of DuPont Applied BioSciences-Biomaterials.

DuPont's 17% jump in first-quarter operating profits reported on Tuesday has also made top management more enthusiastic about generating sales from its Applied BioSciences unit, which developed Sorona.

But profits in the carpet industry have been worn thin in recent years, facing competition from hardwood and tile flooring in a US economic crunch precipitated by the worst housing slump in decades.

Such conditions have dealt a major blow to carpet giants Mohawk and Shaw Industries, and the green movement's emphasis on farm-grown sources instead of petroleum has also made the industry sensitive about nylon.

But Jenny Crosf, senior brand manager for Mohawk Residential Carpet, said nylon carpet is not going away and still dominates the industry, comprising 60% of all carpet made.

Crosf said she did not view the survey as tapping into anti-nylon sentiment espoused by the green movement.

"I wouldn't call it anti-nylon," Crosf said of the survey's focus on products made from renewable resources. "People have said they will pay more for it."

US nylon 6 prices during the week ended 15 April were $1.75-$1.88/lb, according to global chemical market intelligence service ICIS pricing.

How to make more money from carpet has become a serious question for Mohawk. The company last week reported that first-quarter profits fell 28% and said commercial sales - where tile is the leader - are stronger than residential.

However, Crosf said nylon carpet will always lead the industry.

"From a durability standpoint, you can really make a great story for nylon," Crosf said. "I don't see nylon carpet going away."

Taking nylon out of carpet is possible, but taking petrochemicals out of carpet is a tougher chore.

Sorona uses about 30% less petroleum than nylon 6 but is still almost 70% made from petrochemicals, Crosf said.

($1 = €0.63)

For some independent views on bio-based plastics, bookmark Doris De Guzman's Green Chemicals blog 

By: Lane Kelley
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