Carpet and rug recycling is largely an untapped opportunity in Australia, but has the potential to reduce significant amounts of greenhouse gas emissions and resource use.
Carpets and rugs are made of recyclable fibres such as wool, nylon and polypropylene. However, there are currently no commercial recycling facilities that recycle used carpets and rugs for the general public. Until such options become available, try the following re- use options first, then responsible disposal options if there is no other alternative.
Rugs that are in good, usable condition can be donated to charity op shops or through other re-use channels (e.g. Freecycle). If you have large areas of carpet that are in good condition, consider cutting out suitable pieces to use as rugs (you may need to bind the edges). Otherwise, carpet and rugs can be re-used as a soil cover/mulch for gardening and landscaping purposes (try your local community garden or school). Wool carpet that has natural backing material is 100% biodegradable.
Used carpets and rugs that cannot be re-used should be disposed responsibly at a suitable waste disposal facility. When placed into landfill, synthetic carpets will remain largely inert, while wool carpets will decompose under anaerobic conditions to produce methane, a powerful greenhouse gas.
A small number of carpet companies, such as Ontera, Interface and Cavalier Bremworth, have ‘take-back’ schemes for their own carpet tiles products, and will recycle them into new carpets or other products such as weed-matting. They may also be able to recycle your old carpet tiles (from other manufacturers) if you are going to buy new carpet from them. Unfortunately, broadloom carpet is not able to be recycled at this point in time.
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