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How Carpet Recycling UK is leading the sector on sustainability

Every year, 400,000 tonnes of carpet is disposed of in the UK. In just one decade, carpet recycling has grown from just 2% of the used volume arising in 2007 to around 142,000 tonnes or 35% according to the latest figures in 2016.

Recognising the importance of tackling this significant waste stream, leading UK carpet manufacturers backed CRUK with the launch of their voluntary producers' responsibility scheme to find new uses for waste carpet and divert it from landfill.

Since 2008, Carpet Recycling UK has played a pivotal role in developing new reuse and recycling opportunities for waste carpet, which contains recyclable materials such as synthetic fibres and wool fibres as well as bitumen. There are currently more than 20 outlets for used carpets in the UK including reuse organisations, recyclers and fuel flock specialists for energy recovery.

Carpet continues to make significant progress on its sustainability journey with solid support from CRUK's core funders - Cormar Carpets, Lifestyle Floors/Headlam, DESSO, ege Carpets, Milliken, Brintons Carpets and Balsan helping to grow new reuse and recycling opportunities for waste carpet.

Laurance Bird, CRUK Director says: "In taking a voluntary producer responsibility positioning within the marketplace, our core funders are recognised as leaders for sustainability within the carpet value chain. They have provided the crucial impetus to this landfill diversion and recycling cause.

"Interest in the reuse and recycling of waste carpet across the UK continues to build year and year. Flooring suppliers of all sizes are rising to the challenge of recycling carpets and asking for advice on how they can do this."

Carpet Recycling UK is a not for profit membership association working to increase the recycling of carpet waste across the UK. Within the last decade, its activities have helped to transform attitudes towards waste carpet. Alongside growing reuse opportunities (especially for carpet tiles); the material is now regarded as a beneficial resource from which valuable raw materials can be extracted for reuse in a second life.

Uplifted carpet and clean post-installation offcuts can be recycled in a variety of inventive and inspirational ways. Carpet edge trims and fitters' offcuts are used to manufacture felts for flooring, horticulture and the geo-textile, automotive and acoustic industries.

Entrepreneurs from a complete cross-section of manufacturing and commercial enterprises strive to push the boundaries of what can be achieved. Innovative schemes include the reuse of carpet tiles and broadloom supporting disadvantaged people, as well as recycled fibres turned into horticultural felts, and polypropylene fibres turned into recycled plastics.

CRUK member Anglo Recycling Technology has been associated with upcycling carpet waste offcuts into felt underlay products for many years. Through innovation and diversification, the company is meeting market demands in the horticultural sector supplying non-woven products for capillary water systems, landscaping and erosion control.

Through its new brand Growfelt, Anglo supplies upcycled fibres as a growing media to growers of microgreens, herbs and salads in the rapidly expanding urban farming, vertical farming and hydroponics sectors. In disused spaces such as tunnels, underground car parks or purpose built facilities, entrepreneurs and businesses are establishing a revolutionary approach to local food production with Anglo's products providing sustainable alternatives to peat and soil.

Managing Director Andy Hall comments: "This is an exciting period of Anglo's development with the launch of our Growfelt range. Having served the horticultural market for many years, we are now involved with urban farming projects across the UK, Europe and worldwide. The evolution from upcycling to Circular Economy is happening."

CRUK's core funders are united in their commitment to achieving greater sustainability throughout the supply chain. For example, Cormar Carpets is working with its customers to help them recover more value from their carpet waste.

DESSO's association with CRUK has been central to the development of its successful carpet tile ReStart® programme in the UK. This scheme is now fully integrated into their long term Cradle to Cradle® objectives.

CRUK's work to date means it can now offer the whole 'circular' package as Laurance explains: "We can now effectively offer the whole 'circular' package. Manufacturers are helping their customers with their clients' waste carpet, while examining how their own products can be improved with sustainability in mind."

Key areas of focus are promoting design for easier resource recovery, identifying new recycling technologies for carpet materials and developing further recycling outlets and markets - particularly higher-value outlets - in line with Circular Economy principles. CRUK's target is 60% landfill diversion by 2020.

Increasingly local authorities, contractors and retailers can find outlets for their carpets in reuse, recycling or energy recovery; in many cases even saving money on disposal costs. Contractors or retailers can enhance their customer service by taking back carpet waste; savings of up to 30% or more are feasible if carpets are segregated and baled.

"Attitudes are changing and carpet is being regarded as a useful raw material resource for a number of interesting and diverse applications," adds Laurance. "It's also important to consider how we design the sustainable products of the future and how easily they can be recycled. With support from the whole supply chain, we can achieve a more sustainable future for carpet by avoiding landfilling and creating value through reuse and recycling."

CRUK welcomes enquiries from all types of organisations interested in finding new outlets for their waste carpet. For more information, please call 0161 440 8325.

Case study: Fantasy Flooring

Fantasy Flooring worked with Carpet Recycling UK reuse member, Carpet Tile Recycling in Nottingham to divert 10,000sqm of large one metre-squared carpet tiles from landfill.

The carpet tiles were used by a commercial property company, as well as by other businesses and in social housing projects.

The project ran very smoothly and both partners are looking forward to collaborating on further similar projects in the future.

Case study: Cullingford Carpets and Interiors

Since becoming a member of Carpet Recycling UK in July 2015, Cullingford Carpets and Interiors has recycled over 220 tonnes of carpet and underlay waste that would have otherwise gone to landfill.

This has been achieved through the installation of a Kenburn carpet crusher, which compacts waste to make bulk collections feasible. Carpet waste is used as an alternative fuel for cement kilns.

As an established and expanding business, Cullingford Carpets and Interiors plans to further increase their recycling activities based on this success.

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