On Thursday, 28 November, a joint investigation from UKWIN with Changing Markets and Zero Waste Europe claimed that almost 130,000 tonnes of carpet was incinerated annually “at a huge cost to society”.
The report, which can be read here, accused Carpet Recycling UK (CRUK) of ‘greenwashing’ by “publicly celebrating” increasing landfill diversion from 2% to 44% since 2008, while “almost three quarters (73%) of this diversion in 2018 took the form of incineration”.
However, CRUK explained that it has always been transparent about its achievements and has never “swept anything under the carpet”.
Along with the incineration figures, the report said that just 2% of carpet waste was recycled and used for non-shredded products such as carpet underlay and automotive wadding.
The report explained that 400,000 tonnes of carpets are generated each year.
Shlomo Dowen, national coordinator of UKWIN, said: “For widespread carpet recycling to become a reality in the UK, those making new carpets need to redesign their products. Incineration is the opposite of recycling because incineration destroys materials rather than preserving them, and is certainly not environmentally friendly.
“Carpets are made mostly of plastics, which when burnt release harmful greenhouse gases. The climate harm caused by incineration cannot be swept under the carpet. In line with the ‘polluter pays’ principle, it is only fair that those responsible for carpet pollution should be forced to pay for the damage they cause.”
CRUK explained in a statement given to letsrecycle.com that since its formation in 2008, it is “proud of what it has helped the UK industry to achieve”.
This includes diverting over one million of tonnes of carpet waste from landfill and to establish reuse and recycling processes, which are in existence today.
“Back in 2008 CRUK members realised the importance of reducing waste and recycling and in the absence of any actual legislation voluntarily backed CRUK to help the industry understand the waste streams being produced with a view to reusing and recycling as much as possible before treating the remainder in waste to energy streams,” the statement explained.
It added: “CRUK has always been transparent about its achievements and has never ‘swept anything under the carpet’. The achievements are publicly available on its website.”
On its website, the CRUK figures show:
- Volume of carpet waste diverted from landfill in the UK increased with 175,252 tonnes reused, recycled or recovered for energy in 2018
- This equates to a landfill diversion rate of 44% – up from 42% and an increase of 7,252 tonnes on 2017
- Energy recovery accounted for 113,914 tonnes – 65% of the total and a reduction of 10,087 tonnes from 2017
- Reuse and recycling of waste carpet was up by 19,338 tonnes on 2017 to 61,338 tonnes, representing 35% of the total
CRUK however did say that incineration of carpet waste as a percentage of the EfW schemes in the UK is just over 1%.
Carpets along with other bulky household waste streams are known to be difficult to recycle where reuse is no longer the option and currently the sector “does not have the ideal or perfect solutions to treat the waste being produced”, CRUK noted.
The body is working with some its member network on design for recycling with a view to reducing the volume of carpet waste in the bulky waste stream.