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Carpet Recycling UK Conference makes sustainable connections

The importance of making sustainable connections and the need to rethink how carpet products are designed to facilitate future recycling were two leading topics at Carpet Recycling UK’s recent seventh Annual Conference in Birmingham.

The one-day event was preceded with a networking Awards Dinner on June 10th and conference sponsorship again provided by Invista, manufacturers of ANTRON® Carpet Fibres.

Speaking afterwards at the city’s Institute of Engineering and Technology, CRUK Director Laurance Bird said: “Our programme reflected the full scope of our activities, with a key focus on encouraging and inspiring our members to consider innovative ways of reducing and reusing carpet waste.”

Opportunities offering positive outcomes for recycling carpet include local authorities’ need to increase recycling rates to meet EU mandatory goals; rising disposal costs (via skips); landfill site closures meaning less capacity and greater distances to dispose; separate collections under TEEP regulations and EU plans for circular economy progress and possible landfill bans.

“How new products are designed now will have a critical impact on how they can be recycled in the future. These issues were explored in detail during our popular ‘Circular Economy in Action’ sessions,” sad Laurance.

More intelligent use of products, components and materials was the core message from Ken Webster, of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, who concluded that the Circular Economy is inevitable for resource recovery. “The leading element is design: if we don’t design it right in the first place, we’ll have a lot of trouble getting it back.”

International award-winning interior designer Vanessa Brady OBE of Interior Design Services Ltd and President of the Society of British and International Design explained how interior designers can guide consumers towards the best flooring choices for their lifestyles – and crucially choose materials for longevity and sustainability. “Through sharing knowledge, we can bridge the gap and advise on products that can reduce environmental impact over their lifetimes,” she stated.

Arighi Bianchi’s Neville Hinchliffe enlightened delegates on their success in achieving zero waste to landfill by recycling both carpet off-cuts and post-consumer carpet, saving them in excess of £5,000 annually in disposal cost. The retailer sends off-cuts to Anglo Recycling for use in new underlay for ‘the best experience you will never see’.

In his thought-provoking conference keynote speech, Mark Shayler of Ape, the environmental creative agency, emphasised how Britain needs to ‘think, design and make’ in a changing global economy. “The rise of the circular economy, the sharing economy, and the peer-to-peer economy is happening at the same time. We have to change how we do things anyway.”

Updating delegates on CRUK’s Vision to 2020 – 60% diversion from landfill – Jane Gardner emphasised the move away from the ‘take, make, dispose’ model. “By keeping resources in the supply chain and designing carpets for recycling, we can look towards closed-loop recycling of carpets with full support from carpet suppliers,” she said.

Jane also presented a case study on West London Waste Authority’s success with recycling waste carpet from London households, demonstrating how this can save costs as well as contribute to increased recycling rates.

Other sessions covered the sustainability credentials of wool, how to increase carpet life from The WoolSafe Organisation and commercial carpet recycling, alongside reuse and recycling advice from Greenstream Flooring. International guest Anthony Cline from the US-based Carpet America Recovery Effort (CARE) outlined the key success factors in US carpet recycling.

Russell Owens from the Welsh Government addressed the importance of partnership working and explained how councils in Wales have collaborated on recycling 2,124 tonnes of carpet to date.

Carpet Recycling UK is the industry-backed association for recycling and reusing waste carpet. Some 400,000 tonnes of carpet waste arises each year in the UK. Enquiries are welcomed from all types of organisations interested in finding new outlets for their waste carpet.

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