While wooden flooring is currently rising in popularity, carpet remains the most popular form of flooring in the UK – for many reasons. To begin with, it’s an excellent insulator – meaning that it’s highly valued for those of us who have to contend with British weather. As a result, it features in most homes and businesses in the UK and is used in large volumes by contractors, decorators, and more. However, with the average carpet having a lifespan of between 5-10 years, the UK is also responsible for producing large volumes of carpet waste that must be managed appropriately.
What type of waste are carpets?
Carpets could fall into many different categories of waste. For example, due to the materials used, many consider carpets to be a form of textile waste. However, their size and bulk mean that they are more often considered to be bulky waste.
Thankfully, the vast majority of carpets in the market today can be recycled – though it’s estimated that only 2% of them are disposed of appropriately.
Who invented carpet?
The use and design of carpets have been well-documented throughout history, and they are found in artefacts from many different cultures. As a result, it’s difficult to pinpoint precisely who ‘invented’ carpets. However, the earliest evidence of carpets dates back to 7000 BC in Northern Iran and the Armenian Highlands.
What are they made from, and how are they made?
What materials are they made from?
Traditional carpets are made from wool. However, as this material can be rather expensive, carpets are often made from various synthetic fibres such as nylon, polyester and polypropylene. These products (or sometimes a combination of the above) form what is known as the pile section of the carpet – which is then attached to the fabric backing using substances such as PVC.
How are carpets made?
While some carpets are still made by hand, modern-day manufacturers use specialist machinery to speed up the more traditional carpet-making methods.
A series of needles are used to push the carpet fibres through the carpet backing, typically made from a large piece of fabric.
The Looper (a large hook) holds the fibres together until the needle goes back through the backing, forming a loop.
The process repeats itself until the carpet has reached its desired length, though it may also be cut to size later, depending on client demands/requests.
How do you dispose of carpets?
When properly maintained, most carpets have a lifespan of 5-10 years before they need to be replaced. However, when this time comes, they must be disposed of correctly and in a way that leaves a minimal impact on the environment. To dispose of carpet waste, you should:
Safely remove carpets using the appropriate tools.
Cut and roll the carpet into smaller sections, making it easier to store before disposal.
Store carpets in the appropriate containers or bins before disposal. Ideally, they should also be stored in a cool, dry place.
Arrange for waste to be collected regularly by a licensed waste carrier.
What happens carpets next after they have been put in the bin?
The products used to create carpets do not always decompose easily, meaning that they can cause significant damage to the environment if they are sent to landfill sites. However, if taken to the appropriate recycling facility, they can be separated and prepared for reuse. To begin with, the carpet is broken down into smaller, more manageable sections. These sections are then fed through a specialist machine that cleans the carpet before shredding it into even smaller pieces which can then be separated. The fibres can be used to create new carpets – whereas other elements, like leftover plastics from the backing, can be used to make construction materials and even automotive parts.
Alternatives to Carpet.
What are some eco-friendly alternatives to carpets?
As mentioned previously, one of the major reasons why carpets remain a popular flooring choice in the UK (and beyond) is because they are great insulators that can help keep your home warm. However, there are plenty of eco-friendly alternatives out there that you may want to take into consideration. This includes:
Sustainable Wooden Flooring (Made from recycled or repurposed materials)
Jute Flooring (A soft fibre that is much easier to recycle than traditional carpet)
However, if carpets are a necessity, it is often worth spending a little more money to purchase a woollen carpet -as these materials biodegrade naturally.
Can you do anything with old carpets instead of throwing them away?
Fortunately, there are various alternatives that you may want to consider before throwing away your carpet – as they actually have a wide variety of uses beyond traditional flooring. To begin with, you might want to consider professional cleaning ahead of time to see if your carpet can be given a new lease for life. Alternatively, if it remains in good condition, you might want to resell or donate your carpet. However, if you are looking to repurpose your carpet, it can be used to create floor mats for your car or work vehicle. Additionally, veterinary practises or animal shelters are always on the lookout for old carpets, as they can be used to create scratching posts or even beds for animals.
What are the costs associated with recycling and disposing of carpets?
If you are disposing of carpet from your home, you may be able to rely on your local council bulky waste collection service. While you have to arrange for this to be collected outside of your general waste collection, it is often free of charge. However, if your carpet disposal is part of your business, you need to cover the costs of this disposal yourself. At Business Waste, we can help you cut costs on all areas of waste disposal by providing you with free access to bins and ensuring that your waste is collected quickly and efficiently.
How many carpets are there?
Approximately £750 million of carpets are sold each year in the UK.
In the UK, we generate 40,000 tonnes of carpet waste every year – with the vast majority of these products being disposed of incorrectly.
How many carpets are in landfills?
While recent studies suggest that as little as 2% of carpets are recycled appropriately, it’s fair to assume that the vast majority of carpets end up at landfill sites, though the exact figures are unclear.
A recent investigation found that we incinerate 130,000 tonnes of carpet each year in the UK alone.
If sent to a landfill site, the synthetic materials used to create carpets can take thousands of years to decompose – contributing significantly to global warming in the process.
The manufacturing process for carpets also requires a great deal of work to become more sustainable. For example, it often produces large volumes of excess or surplus materials that are then thrown away.
Where can you take these items to recycle/dispose of them for free?
Good waste management services are worth paying for – especially if it helps your business take better care of the environment. However, it’s also important to remember that your local council may sometimes be able to collect this waste for free or for a small cost.
Alternatively, you can resell old carpets online or donate them to charity.
What would you like to learn about next?