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Carpet Recycling UK Conference spotlighted innovation

Innovation in waste prevention, recycling and extracting energy from carpet waste were key subjects explored by international experts at Carpet Recycling UK’s fourth Annual Conference in July.

New topics that generated a buzz among the 100 delegates in Birmingham included the conversion of synthetic carpet waste to oil and electricity, plus the creation of clean energy and power through gasification and pyrolysis techniques. The event attracted representatives from across the supply chain, including carpet manufacturers, recycling companies and organisations seeking outlets for their carpet waste.

This year’s packed programme again provided information and inspiration for all sectors of the carpet waste supply chain with presentations covering new developments from leading carpet recyclers in Austria, Italy, Germany and America as well as the UK. Notably, the event also demonstrated an increase in higher grade and higher value re-use and recycling options.

Three parallel ‘breakout’ sessions proved popular, including a talk from Dr Laszlo Kondor, Managing Director of Austria-based KEMIA Handels und Projektierungs GmbH. He highlighted two Hungarian plants that use a thermocatalytic conversion process to produce up to 6,500 tonnes of heavy oil annually from mixed plastic and rubber wastes. A trial using 500 kgs of synthetic carpet waste, mainly polypropylene, showed this process could be successful using only carpet waste.

Generating electricity from carpet waste was another interesting outlet development introduced by John Chalfin and Mark Homer of WREL (Worldwide Recycling Equipment Ltd). Their modular system is capable of generating 1 megawatt per hour from 25 tonnes of carpet waste per day – enough to power around 1,000 homes.

Further sessions included Closing the Loop – Designing for the Future to inspire fresh thinking on how products are designed so as to preserve increasingly limited resources, how the Cradle to Cradle® design concept works and Jan Ladefoged Jenson of Danish carpet manufacturer egetaepper a/s on their environmental approach to manufacturing processes.

"Innovation and the improvements we are making in finding inventive outlets, particularly for polypropylene (PP) carpet fibres, came through strongly at this year’s event and this is continuing to inspire the sector to even greater achievements," commented Laurance Bird, Director of CRUK, the industry-backed association for recycling and reusing waste carpet.

"Novel outlet developments, such as extracting oil from waste carpets, generated a lot of interest and discussion on the day," he continued. "It was also clear that a lot more manufacturers are making sustainability, re-use and recycling a central part of their brand positioning in the market and that these are essential parts of their operating strategies. Membership of CRUK is a very helpful element of those strategies."

Currently 16.5% of the 400,000 tonnes of carpet waste arising annually in the UK is recycled. Of the 65,700 tonnes diverted from landfill in 2011, 49.5% was recycled and 50.5% fed into energy from waste schemes.

"We have made tremendous progress from the 2% diversion rate in 2007. However, that still leaves us with 83.5% to go at," added Laurance. "Our target of 25% diversion from landfill is achievable and, judging from the positive feedback, there is a lot of confidence and entrepreneurial spirit willing to turn waste carpet into a new raw material resource."

Keeping up the momentum remains a challenge as the organisation continues to work with the carpet supply chain to establish outlets for end of life carpets.

"Our priorities include developing higher value outlets for carpet waste, designing carpets that can be recycled in the future and developing efficient collection strategies," said Jane Gardner, of resource recovery specialists Axion Consulting, which manages Carpet Recycling UK.

She added: "Through sharing some exciting achievements, expertise and knowledge, CRUK has taken another step forward towards its goals. We’ve had some great feedback from delegates who particularly appreciated the opportunities for networking and to learn more about developments in carpet recycling generally."

For Marilynn Haigh, Marketing and Finance Director at Carpet Tile Recycling, the event provided very interesting content and "in just the right amount of detail", adding: "For me, the networking, technology, market needs and overview, were particularly useful."

Robert Barker, Director of Cormar Carpets rated the event highly, adding that he liked the visionary session and the practical case studies from the American market leaders. Similarly, Forbo’s Environment Specialist Mark Bauer, singled out talks from two US-based carpet recyclers, Frank Endrenyi, President of Sustainable Materials Solutions LLC and Sean Ragiel of CarpetCycle, a carpet collector and recycler as "very informative".

Another satisfied delegate was Steve Bell, Divisional Manager at Enterprise Recycling, who found the opportunity to network and the quality of presentations very useful. He added: "Overall, I thought the event was excellent with a good balance of subject areas."

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