Studying for a BA in Applied Arts at Derby University Atkins saw the potential of the inadvertently melted carpet, which had left a hard plastic surface, and embarked on a three year research and development project in the recycling of waste carpet. In doing so Atkins has proved that an item that would usually go to landfill could instead be turned into a new product that is fun, functional and have a long second life.
With funding from the Princes' Youth Trust and now a European patent, Carpet-Burns was formed in 2002 and is the sole supplier of heat-treated carpet (HTC). Atkins describes the recycling process as "a bit like a giant cheese toastie maker" as just heat and pressure is applied to the carpet, no separation or shredding takes place and no stabilisers, glues or resins are added.
The process enables recycled carpet to be moulded into hard durable 3D forms. Alternatively, the material can be processed into a hard board of material of varying thickness. The carpet is no longer recognisable as being carpet but assumes new properties becoming waterproof, oil proof and highly durable, with a smooth surface available in either a matt or gloss finish.
"At the moment, we are getting the carpet direct from manufacturers as end of line or faulty stock," says Atkins. "We are not working with post consumer waste yet, but are aiming to work directly with civic amenity sites because huge amounts of carpet are going to landfill.
With carpet taking 50 years to biodegrade and an immense amount of waste generated not only from homes, but also from faulty or end of line stock, not to mention the endless sample books and waste carpet from exhibition centres, sustainability is one of the core principles behind the company. However, Atkins stresses that this is a business venture trading a very commercial material.
Carpet-Burns currently manufactures handbags, notebooks, coasters, trays, furniture and a bespoke range of interior products including kitchen splashbacks and items such as magazine racks to match people's own carpet.
Carpet-Burns also made an appearance on BBC's Changing Rooms. Atkins met designer Oliver Heath at a show and when he later began work on a Changing Rooms eco special used some of the product in its flat board version as wardrobe panelling. "This went down really well and opened us up to a much wider audience," says Atkins.
Carpet-Burns is currently working out of Derby University, although Atkins says that they are now looking for venture capital to relocate and take on some more staff with an increased focus on furniture. No doubt with such a keen imagination and sharp business sense Atkins' tables, notebooks and trays will soon find their way into homes up and down the country.