Figures released by trade association Carpet Recycling UK (CRUK) show that diversion rates increased to 21.4% in 2012 – a rise of 30% on the previous year’s 16.5%.

Of the 85,000 tonnes diverted, 36,000 tonnes were recycled or reused while 49,000 tonnes were sent for energy recovery via cement kilns and power generation plants. Energy recovery grew by 44% as the high calorific value of carpets became more widely recognised.

Last year also saw record levels of carpet production offcuts – more than 6,000 tonnes – diverted from landfill by CRUK members, predominantly manufacturers. Recycling was by far the favoured treatment route for this, with only 808 tonnes sent for energy recovery.

CRUK’s target for the sector is 25% landfill diversion by 2015. According to its director Laurance Bird, entrepreneurial commitment to developing new outlets and markets for the material stream is helping to drive diversion rates.

“New recycling opportunities continuing to emerge as growing awareness is matched by practical endeavour, so it’s a positive story,” he said, adding that many specialist facilities have expanded their capacity for recovering the material.

That said, over 78% of carpet waste still ends up in landfill. “Our goals for 2013 will continue to drive higher carpet recycling rates through a number of initiatives, including local authority encouragement on segregation,” Bird revealed.

Councils will be an important focus after CRUK research showed the significant contribution that separating carpet waste at household waste recycling centres (HWRCs) could make to diversion strategies.

A study of HWRCs nationally found ten local authorities operating across 61 sites using dedicated bins to send carpet waste for recycling or energy recovery. Collectively, these sites are collecting 14,620 tonnes of domestic carpets per year from 2.3m households.

CRUK has also been involved in pilot trials to capture clean carpet offcuts generated through fitting installations, estimated at between 12,000 to 15,000 tonnes per annum.

These pilots will evaluate the logistical challenges of collecting fitting offcuts from the domestic and commercial sectors through retailers, flooring contractors and distributors.

CRUK is managed by resource recovery specialist Axion Consulting.

Maxine Perella

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