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Carpet industry embraces circular economy opportunities

Carpet recycling and re-use initiatives showcased at Carpet Recycling UK’s recent fifth annual conference in Birmingham highlighted the industry’s significant progress in embracing circular economy opportunities.

Nearly 100 carpet industry stakeholders including manufacturers, distributors, recyclers, waste management companies and raw material suppliers attended what organisers described as their ‘best-ever’ event, held at the city’s Institute of Engineering and Technology.

A wide-ranging programme focusing on waste minimisation and designing for recycling, outlet development, market research and lobbying as well as collecting and sorting, provided plenty of inspiration and information for delegates who attended from all over the world.

CRUK Director Laurance Bird said: "There was a real buzz throughout an action-packed day and it was certainly our best-ever event, which was well-received by all who attended. The conference demonstrated how the work undertaken by CRUK and its members is driving carpet waste up the waste hierarchy.

"Active projects revealed how attitudes have changed. Carpet is now regarded as a valuable resource from which valuable raw materials can be extracted for reuse in a second life, rather than just a bulky waste only fit for landfill. The sector is embracing burgeoning opportunities in the circular economy and making the most of existing resources," added Laurance.
Aimed at organisations seeking outlets for their carpet waste as well as carpet manufacturers and firms interested in new recycling technologies, the conference examined topics such as waste prevention/redesign, take back schemes, reuse and energy from waste (EfW).

A popular session hosted by Mike Walters, Operations Manager, Recycling & Waste for the John Lewis Partnership, highlighted the department store’s sustainability strategy and their post-installation off cuts collection project. Off cuts collected from fitters are reprocessed by Anglo Recycling into non-woven felt underlay for John Lewis.

In a new Q & A session, Natasha Smith from DEFRA sought the carpet sector’s views regarding the potential banning of carpet and textile waste from landfill. Any ban would affect the carpet sector directly, because carpets are a textile floorcovering and therefore fall into the textile category.

Natasha presented data already collected by the government showing that carpet makes up 21% or 450,000 tonnes of the UK’s annual textile waste arising. She explained that a good understanding of the data, waste streams and markets are vital to making an informed decision on any restrictions or bans.

Pointing to a 2012 wood waste call for evidence that found less wood was going to landfill than initially thought, Natasha said a similar understanding of what was actually happening was needed for the carpet sector. Government would need to be satisfied that any restriction is the best-value way of moving materials up the waste hierarchy and that costs to businesses and the public sector are affordable.

She spoke to carpet stakeholders including manufacturers and recyclers to understand the challenges faced by the sector and the views of the sector on how best to drive waste carpet up the waste hierarchy and achieve increased prevention, reuse and recycling.

Carpet and mattress separation trials at Viridor’s household waste recycling centres in West Sussex were outlined by Bill Griffiths, Viridor National Organics and Recycling Manager. He also spoke about the logistical and financial challenges faced by waste contractors and local authorities in providing separate containers for carpet waste at household waste recycling centres.

US-based carpet recycler, Frank Endrenyi, President of Sustainable Materials Solutions LLC offered insights into their ReCom System which provides the purest single post-consumer polymer stream and the potential to recover polypropylene from UK-sourced carpet waste.

He also updated delegates on the California carpet stewardship programme, which requires carpet manufacturers by law to add 5 cents to each square yard of carpet sold into California, to fund a carpet recycling programme.

Other highlights included Louise McGregor, Head of Market Development at Zero Waste Scotland focusing on opportunities for carpet recycling activities in Scotland. Of the estimated 40,000 tonnes of waste carpet arising annually in Scotland, only 2.5% is currently recycled or reused.

Despite the challenges, which include lack of awareness, collection and processing infrastructure, Louise said significant opportunities existed for landfill diversion, expansion of facilities, carbon savings and resource efficiency savings.

For more information, call 0161 440 8325 or visit www.carpetrecyclinguk.com.

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