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Carpet Recycling UK: Big increase in 2021 waste diversion figure

Carpet Recycling UK has reported a large increase in the amount of carpet and textile flooring waste being diverted from landfill in 2021 with 82% of the 462,000 tonnes of waste generated that year finding alternative reuse, recycling, treatment and disposal routes. 

Commenting on the latest figures released at their Annual Conference and Awards event held in June, Adnan Zeb-Khan, Scheme Manager said: “This percentage increase is reflecting the final effects of the pandemic when most of the waste captured by the waste management sector was sent to energy from waste facilities.”

Sponsored by Core Member Condor Group with Anglo Recycling and Innovate Recycle as the main exhibitors, the successful two-day conference with an evening dinner and awards ceremony attracted more than 60+ delegates on both days. Key headline speakers included Bob Peoples, Executive Director of the US-based Carpet America Recovery Effort (CARE) and Dr Hans-Peter Breuer from ECRA (EU). 

The hotly contested Carpet Recycling UK annual member awards were presented by Bob Peoples from Carpet America Recovery Effort (CARE) and Shaun Wadsworth from the CFA, recognising and rewarding companies and organisations who are taking voluntary and proactive action to demonstrate and drive sustainability in the carpet and textile flooring sector.  

The 2023 winners are:  

  • Recycling Champion of the Year – Simon Westley Designer Contracts
    • Take Back Partner of the Year – Designer Contracts
    • Reuse Member of the Year – Greenstream Flooring CIC
    • Recycler of the Year – Foleys Equestrian Surfaces Ltd
    • Circular Economy Initiative – Rawson Carpet Solutions

Adnan emphasised the need for the industry to take action to develop and lead its own Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) legislative framework, saying: “We are leading this strategy with the development of four key working groups with their core members to address key areas such as data management, take-back scheme, sustainability pledge and EPR based policy. These key areas will allow us to develop a road map of favourable and workable policies for the sector.”

Several presenters echoed this sentiment and concluded that any EPR-based legislation should be industry led, with not-for-profit organisation CRUK best placed to direct these efforts through their 138-strong membership and extensive UK-wide and international outreach. The sector would need to support their initiatives and programmes to help them develop the required strategies, policies and systems.  

CRUK’s 17 core members include: Balsan, Betap, Brintons Carpets, Condor Group, Cormar Carpets, ege Carpets, Furlong Flooring, Gradus, Headlam Group, IVC Commercial, Likewise Floors, Milliken, Modulyss, Rawson Carpet Solutions, Shaw, Tarkett and Victoria Group. They are taking voluntary producer responsibility for the products they place on the market and striving to reduce waste in production as well as for their customers, helping to create cost savings.

Adnan observed that though demand for carpet and textile reuse remains consistent, there has been a small decline in the amount of material being reused across the UK. This has not been helped by the closure of Greenstream Flooring, a long-standing member of CRUK for 13 years. “However, with the introduction of the Salvation Army Trading Company, now a member in the reuse category, we should be able to maintain the existing numbers and hopefully increase these with their nationwide outreach and brand awareness,” he continued. 

Claire Donovan of the End Furniture Poverty charity highlighted the importance of and opportunities for reuse given that 1.4 million people in the UK don’t have carpet or textile flooring of any kind in their homes. She said: “Social landlords often rip out flooring before new tenants move in and flooring is so hard to obtain on low incomes. A lack of flooring has an impact on health and safety, comfort, energy efficiency and noise and anti-social behaviour. Of course, recycled flooring could play a key role in helping to ensure more comfortable homes.”

Joe Lawson presented the findings of his detailed 12-month MSC study, part-funded by CRUK, into existing and novel end-of-life options for carpet waste. Joe offered a ‘useful resource for CRUK to inform future decisions’ as well as further information about the recyclability of carpet PP involving thermal processes.

Condor Group announced its partnership with Marc Krebs Co-Founder of Tide Ocean SA and how they are working on upcycling ocean-bound plastics to make high quality carpet products and replace the use of virgin materials.   

Dr Ansgar Paschen from the Institute of Flooring Systems in the EU provided updates from Europe regarding the challenges and solutions to a circular economy, as well as John Coates, policy advisor for Re-Gen Waste speaking on the latest UK waste policy reforms and updates. Other talks focused on sustainable standards and requirements from new build property developers, EPDs, ESGs and how manufacturers need to respond to the Net Zero agenda. The key theme and message of all talks at this year’s conference were policy and legislation updates from UK and Europe, as well as the importance for industry to lead on any new legislative and policy reforms.

Concluding, Adnan discussed the uncertain times ahead as they await official confirmation from Natural Resources Wales (NRW), Environment Agency (EA) and the other agencies on a position with Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPS) present in carpet and textile flooring waste and the commitment required from the members and wider sector in developing the working groups.

Positive feedback from the event included Joe Eccleston of Innovate Recycle who said: “There’s a feeling that the industry is coming together to move towards more landfill diversion, the recycling effort and circularity while looking at the impacts of ESG, EPR and EPDs. Now the hard work starts!”

Adrian Finn of MJ’s Event Services Ltd noted that the “well-run event covered a great deal of the issues faced by the industry, with a good mix of commercial and scientific input.”

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