The disposal of old flooring in the UK is now a subject that people in the carpet and flooring trade are now taking more notice of. This is not because they’ve suddenly developed a green conscience but because they can no longer just take the old tiles, laminate or other materials down to the local dump, they have to pay to dispose of it as business waste.
As a result, many carpet and flooring businesses will either charge for getting rid of the old flooring that’s being replaced, or ask the homeowner to dispose of it before the arrive with the replacement. But what are the options if you yourself have a green conscience and don’t want to clutter up landfill sites?
Is Recycling a Viable Option for Carpet and Flooring?
Going back to the usual environmental mantra of reduce, reuse and recycle, it’s reduce and recycle that are most appropriate here. Unfortunately carpet, particularly it is not natural, is difficult to recycle. The most valuable part is the plastic tufting on the top but the particular plastic has to be identified, then separated from the backing, which is usually latex or PVC.
For this reason there are very few recycling plants in the UK that deal with carpet or flooring and although they are being built, they tend to be aimed at large installers as private homes won’t generate the volumes of waste to make it viable. Some local authorities will collect it for recycling though, so it is worth checking with yours to see what facilities are available because plastic carpet is likely to take twenty thousand years to break down in landfill.
Hardwood flooring can be recycled through the usual wood section at the local recycling centre, but laminate flooring is probably worse than carpet, as is vinyl flooring and tiles. Bearing all this in mind, let’s look at the green option of reusing in more detail.
Reusing Carpet, Tiles and Laminate
You may think that your flooring has reached the end of its useful life but other people may have a different opinion. For tiles and hardwood or laminate flooring there could be many people out there who could take the best bits from yours and use them to cover a smaller room or area. But how can you find someone who might be able to use it?
Try all your friends and family first, but they may be reticent to take your cast-offs. Local advertising is the next most likely source. You might find that charity shops are happy to put notices up for free if you are giving something away. Equally the supermarkets and some other shops often have free notice boards, or you could try the newsagents’ windows, although you are more likely to have to pay for those.
The Green Internet Option for Carpets
There’s growing interest in using the internet to find people who are happy to take other people’s cast-offs because they care about keeping things out of the landfill. This green ethic has spawned a number of websites and email groups, the best known perhaps being freecycle. Look up freecycle.org and see if a group has been started up near you, then you can post your carpet, tiles, laminate, hardwood or any other item for that matter, to see if someone can make use of it.
Carpet has a number of second life uses that green-minded people will happily embrace. If it can’t be reused as flooring, it can be used as a weed barrier in gardens, particularly if it is Hessian-backed. Just cut to size, turn it over and lay it down.
Insulation is another favourite reuse of old carpet. It might not be as efficient as layers of mineral wool or space-age silvered plastic fabrics, but there’s a plentiful supply of it and you’ll prevent the damage done by those more modern materials being manufactured, because you’re reducing the demand.
Reusing Lino, Laminate, Hardwood and Other Flooring Materials
Lino can be cut down to use as a wipe-clean worktop surface in sheds or garage as can PVC flooring. Lino can even be used as a pond liner, and hardwood flooring can of course be used as a source material for all sorts of jobs around the home and garden. Laminate flooring isn’t as useful as hardwood but can be cut down and used for shelving in sheds and garages or other uses.
So take a look around and see if there isn’t something that can be done with your old flooring before consigning it to the landfill.