Collecting carpets, mattresses and pillows for reuse and recycling can be financially viable, a new WRAP study has found.
The study says the market is relatively undeveloped but is viable for collectors and cheaper than disposal via landfill. Viability would improve as landfill tax increases help grow the markets for recycling and reuse, WRAP said.
It said options existed for the reuse of carpet tiles, broadloom carpet and mattresses, while collection of pillows could be cost neutral under the right conditions.
But the revenue from the sale of these items for reuse and materials for recycling is too low to offset costs and collectors rely on service charges, although this could change as potential future increases in the value of materials would improve the financial sustainability of collections.
Key barriers to this activity are said to include a lack of end markets, lack of awareness that reuse or recycling is possible with these items and that their bulkiness made them unwieldy to move.
WRAP said some 630,000 tonnes of non-clothing textiles entered the UK waste stream each year, comprising 169,000 tonnes of mattresses, 400,000 tonnes of carpet and 61,900 tonnes of duvets and pillows.
Only 16.5% of discarded carpet and 14.7% of discarded mattresses are currently reused, recycled or sent for energy recovery, in contrast to the 40% of clothing and household textiles.
It said that some 30% of carpets and mattresses collected as bulky waste could be reused without further processing.
For carpets, the main outlet for reuse is as carpet tiles while for mattresses separated into steel springs and textiles fillings create two recyclable materials.
Pillows and duvets had potential for reuse in hotels or university accommodation but the recycling potential was unclear.
WRAP said it would do further work to better understand the market opportunities and barriers.
According to a report from Carpet Recycling UK release earlier this year, the proportion of carpet waste diverted from landfill rose by almost a third to 21.4% in 2012. Of the 85,000 tonnes of waste carpet diverted from landfill, 36,000 tonnes was recycled or reused, while 49,000 tonnes was sent for energy recovery via cement kilns and generation plants.