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Realising the value in carpet waste

Five years ago, recycling end-of-life carpets and post-installation off-cuts was practically unknown.  Fast forward to 2013 and it’s a very different story, as Carpet Recycling UK Director Laurance Bird explains

As the industry’s association for recycling and reusing carpet, Carpet Recycling UK has been responsible for driving technological advances and changes in attitudes towards the 400,000 tonnes of waste carpet materials arising annually in the UK. Last year, 85,000 tonnes (21.4%) was diverted from landfill with 36,000 tonnes recycled and reused.

Now regarded as a serious raw material that can be used to make new items, from underlay to construction products, carpet has an exciting future. This is reflected in the ‘Moving from waste to resource’ theme at our fifth Annual Conference which opens in Birmingham on June 19 with a wide-ranging programme covering latest developments and innovations across all sectors of the carpet waste supply chain.

Aimed at organisations seeking outlets for their carpet waste as well as carpet manufacturers and firms interested in new recycling technologies, the conference examines topics such as waste prevention/redesign, take back schemes, reuse and energy from waste (EfW).

Parallel breakout sessions return this year looking at outlet development, collecting and sorting and market research and policy together with presentations covering the whole breadth of the waste hierarchy.

A conference highlight will be announcing results of trials to recover polypropylene (PP) from post-consumer carpets – perhaps one of the most challenging recycling areas we are tackling. Old carpets full of grit and dirt need to be cleaned to reclaim any meaningful value from the fibres, so we are pleased to see progress being made here.

While EfW schemes provide good volumes for post-consumer carpets and are a step up from landfill; the value driver has to be recovery of materials, especially PP that can be successfully recycled.

Post-installation off-cuts – around 15,000 tonnes a year – are of higher value than post-consumer carpet and much effort is being invested in capturing these. A cost-effective and efficient collection of small volumes of off-cuts from a large number of sites is a key challenge.

Separate collection facilities at household waste recycling centres that keep carpet dry and free from contamination by other waste streams helps to encourage more local collections and boost volumes for recycling, while preventing materials going to landfill and being lost forever.

A number of speakers will be sharing their views on the Circular Economy, including Katie McGuire of CO² Sense, Rudi Daelmans, Sustainability Director of CRUK member Desso and Steven Parsons of Wools of New Zealand. Progress on  Scotland’s Zero Waste Plan and the opportunities for carpet reuse and recycling will be discussed by Louise McGregor of Zero Waste Scotland.

New this year are two Q&A sessions, hosted by Defra, aimed at gathering evidence on landfill banning of textiles. These offer opportunities for the carpet sector to express their views directly to Government representatives on the potential ban of carpet waste in landfill sites.

Other seminars in our packed programme sharing innovation success will explore The John Lewis Sustainability Strategy and the department store’s latest carpet take back scheme, carpet sorting technology using a handheld near infrared analyser, a pyrolysis process for energy recovery and much more.  

For more information see: www.carpetrecyclinguk.com

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