Carpet Recycling: The Complete Guide

In 2017, the recycling rate was 45.7% for UK household waste. This rate is increasing year-on-year; essentially, we are becoming better at avoiding throwing things straight in the bin.

Packaging often has its own recycling labels and our bins are bigger, however, do you ever come across an item and think, “can I recycle this?” 

For many people, carpet is one of those items that poses many questions. Can I put carpet in the bin? How do I recycle carpet? Where do I recycle carpet?!

As it’s not something we regularly need to throw away, it’s natural that we don’t know the answer. That’s why we’re going to deep dive into everything you need to know about recycling your carpet - ensuring that you get a fresh, new carpet without impacting negatively on the environment.

Recycling in the UK

In modern times, recycling feels like a part of most people’s everyday routines. Our homes often have waste facilities specific to recycling, and the highstreet bins typically have an option to recycle when you’re on the go. However, this has not always been the norm in the United Kingdom.

20 years ago, back in 2000, only 12% of waste was recycled, despite the fact that 60% of household waste could feasibly be recycled or composted. Following this, Friends of the Earth began campaigning for a recycling bill which would provide homeowners the option to recycle through doorstep collection.

Three years later in 2003, the bill was passed, sparking the changes that we see today in our homes and across the UK. There have been significant changes to the way that recycling takes place in the UK and the benefit it has had to the environment.

Recycling and businesses in the UK

Waste management is something that companies have to think about when operating in the UK. Not only does it come at a cost to the business owner, but to the environment too.

Business waste is defined as any waste that is generated through commercial activity - even if your business is run from your home, it is still considered as commercial waste.

This also includes any waste generated from construction, demolition, industry or agriculture. The government outlines a number of responsibilities for disposal of business waste:

  • Keep waste to a minimum by doing everything you reasonably acn to prevent, reuse, recycle or recover waste.
  • Complete a waste transfer note for each load of waste that leaves your premises.
  • Check if your waste carrier is registered to dispose of waste.
  • Not to allow the waste carrier to dispose of your waste illegally (and to report them if they do).

Recycling in the home

While recycling in the UK is relied upon by many markets and industries for saving costs and the environment, recycling household waste is certainly an element to focus on as it has become an unconscious societal change with great results for the environment.

Domestic recycling has seen a sharp rise since legislation change in 2003. In 2017 there was 10,139 tonnes of household waste recycled - from a total of 22,437. Paper and card represented two-fifths of this recycled waste, however, there are plenty of other materials that make up the UK’s recycling habits:

  • Glass
  • Metal
  • IBA Metals
  • E-Waste
  • Plastics
  • Textiles
  • Other Materials

The benefits of recycling in the UK

Since the millennium and the increasing number of people taking part in recycling, there have been a number of benefits made clear, through results:

Recycling is cheaper than waste collection and disposal

One of the key points is that it is far less expensive to, Lambeth Council in 2017 stated that it is 6 times cheaper to dispose of recycled waste. 

This saving is beneficial for a range of stakeholders - households, businesses and local public services. In Germany, they utilise a deposit scheme and this financial incentive sees a 90% recycling rate for plastic bottles.

Conserves energy

It requires far less energy to create products from recycled materials, rather than sourcing (already limited) raw materials. 

  • Making paper from recycled paper requires 40% less energy.
  • Producing new aluminium from recycled cans and foils uses  95% less energy.
  • Making steel from recycled products requires 70% less energy than from raw materials.

Reduces impact on the environment

One of the major benefits of recycling is the positive impact it has on the environment, reducing climate-changing carbon emissions.

In the UK, there have been significant improvements on the impact on the environment thanks to recycling.

  • UK biodegradable municipal waste sent from landfill has fallen from approximately 7.4 million tonnes in 2017 to around 7.2 million tonnes in 2018.
  • In 2017, 70% of UK packaging waste was either recycled or recovered, exceeding the EU target to recycle or recover at least 60% of packaging waste.

Awareness of recycling in the UK

There are claims that 2018 was the year that the UK “woke up to recycling” - the annual Recycling Tracker survey is used to gather evidence and measure the knowledge of the UK’s population.

In 2019, they recorded figures on general awareness of recycling in the UK:

  • Three in five households (60% report additional recycling of one or more items in the past year (either an item they were not previously recycling or one they are now recycling more often or more consistently).
  • 75% of UK households have seen the Recycling ‘Swoosh’ (up from 45% in 2018).
  • 60% of UK households perceive a positive social norm around recycling.

Why Recycle Carpet?

With 60% of households recycling a new item, turning the focus onto how to recycle carpet seems fitting.The first area to explore with regards to recycling carpet, is the reason why you would recycle it in the first place.

Carpets are incredibly difficult to break down in landfill due to the complex and rigid fibres, this means that where possible, recycling carpets is a great way to reduce your impact on the environment. Particularly for businesses, where it is their legal responsibility to look to reduce and reuse materials where possible.

While carpets may not be an item that is regularly disposed of by individual households or business, it can have a longer-lasting impact on the environment due to how long it takes to break down. Therefore, when changing or replacing carpet whether in a home, office or industrial setting, looking into how you can recycle it should be a priority.

How to Recycle Carpet

Carpet is a complex make up of materials and fibres which can mean that the recycling of the material is difficult. However, it is possible to recycle all elements of carpet - despite it requiring a little more work.

Recycling carpet depends on a range of factors - such as the condition of the carpet, the volume of carpet being disposed of and the type of carpet. However, another distinguishing factor is generally whether the carpet comes from a household or a commercial setting. Luckily, there are services available for both.

Recycling domestic carpet

There are many reasons why you would need to get rid of your home’s carpet - renovating your home or perhaps your carpet is damaged and needs replacing. However, with around 25 million homes in the UK, this is a lot of carpet.

If you are looking to dispose of used carpet, there are multiple paths that you can take to recycle it, preventing the long time it would take for :

  • See if the shop that you bought the carpet from offers a take back scheme.
  • Contact your local council to see if they offer a service to recycle carpet.
  • Ask your local recycling centre if they have a recycling container for carpet waste.
  • List your carpet on Facebook Marketplace, Gum Tree, Free Cycle similar.
  • Check the Reuse Network, there may be an organisation in your area that could use the carpet.

This area of recycling is growing and there are a variety of resources available for domestic carpet recycling, if one method doesn’t work, don’t give up! Infrastructure around carpet recycling is changing and this means that in the future, this will be a more accessible way to dispose of your carpet.

Recycling commercial carpet

Commercial carpet is a different prospect to recycling domestic carpet, as usually the quantity is considerably higher. This means that it is vitally important that commercial carpet is recycled rather than sent to landfill.

Carpet Recycling UK, who partner with Birch Carpets, provide extensive resources for business and organisations looking to recycle commercial carpet. Their aim is to make connections between carpet recyclers and re-users and divert commercial carpet waste from landfill.

Since Carpet Recycling UK launched in 2008, they have 100 members from across the carpet industry and therefore are one of the best methods for businesses to recycle their carpet and improve on their sustainability.

For businesses, in addition to this organisation, there are a number of commercial waste disposal companies who will take care of this. With recycling coming to the forefront of waste disposal, this is something that more companies offer, but be sure to check that the carpet will not be going to landfill.

Reusing Carpet

If you have tried to local recycling facilities or to rehome your carpet to no avail, there are projects there are ways that you can reuse carpet effectively.

Use carpet in your garden or allotment

Wool-rich carpet can be used to reduce weeds in your garden or allotment. Why not try it with old carpet and offer it to friends? Carpets can also be used to insulate soil.

Re-use carpet in your car

There are multiple ways to reuse carpet within your car - upcycle them into a comfy car mat to keep your footwell tidy and comfortable. Alternatively, they can be used to make an anti-frost windscreen cover, perfect for the colder months.

Donate carpet to an animal shelter

Animal Shelters are always looking for donations - carpet is just one of the ways you can support them. Carpets can make a great mat in kennels and help to keep the animals warm, especially through the winter.

Upcycle your carpet in the home

If you are interested in DIY, there are multiple ways to reuse carpet to improve your home!

From making your own door mat, to coasters, to rugs even to cat scratch posts - there may be more life in your carpet than you think. You can find fun guides of how to create these ideas on many DIY and craft websites. 

The Impact of Recycling Carpet

As mentioned, carpet is incredibly difficult to break down, so by successfully diverting it away from landfill means that there are some positive consequences.

Recycling Carpet: The Outcomes

Carpet Recycling UK have reported that since they founded in 2008 and until 2018, they have made some key accomplishments:

  • Increasing rate of landfill diversion from 2% to 44% in 10 years
  • Diverting over one million tonnes of carpet from landfill
  • Working with manufacturers to eliminate waste
  • Helping retailers introduce recycling take back schemes

What Carpet Can Be Recycled Into

The final thing to consider in the carpet recycling process is - what is the final outcome? What does carpet become after it has been recycled?

  • Underlay and insulation
  • Carpet
  • Road surfaces
  • Roofing
  • Energy
  • Washing machine parts
  • Wheel trims

There is no end to what carpet can become when recycled, so when you’re next replacing carpet, whether it’s a domestic or commercial, make sure to recycle it.