The three ‘R’s of sustainability, reduce, reuse and recycle are often mentioned on this site. The point is that although it’s good to recycle waste materials rather than throw them in landfill sites, it’s actually far better if we can reduce the amount we use and throwaway in the first place, and reuse things before finally recycling them.
Reducing Flooring Use
In terms of reducing the amount of carpet that’s used, people ought not to replace carpet and other flooring just because they’ve gone off the colour or pattern. It’s obviously not a great idea for the planet, it’s far better if flooring is used until it’s falling apart. But that’s not the sort of thing you can force people to do, and dyeing carpet is rarely successful.
Other flooring materials are perhaps not as bad as carpet. As long as they are removed carefully, many hard flooring tiles can be reused. Vinyl flooring, whether it’s tiles or in sheet form, is usually only fit for the tip once it’s been taken up.
Recycling Flooring Materials
Looking at recycling, the plain truth is that recycling carpet is difficult and expensive. There are a couple of plants in the UK that can do it, but unless you are near one then its pointless taking it there. Until there are more plants available around the country recycling carpet isn’t an option for most of us.
Again the materials used to manufacture other flooring generally do not make recycling possible. Natural wood and stone are probably the only materials that can genuinely be recycled, although some can be broken up and used in products like insulation or packing. They are likely to be thrown away after that second use though.
And as with paper, the current economic crisis has led to a fall in prices for raw materials for recycling. This makes people and companies less likely to put the required effort in to recycle these materials.
Reusing Carpet and Other Flooring Materials
So the real opportunities for keeping carpet out of the landfill come down to reusing it. If you are lucky enough to find someone who had large offcuts from a new carpet that you could use in a small room in your house then that’s the perfect situation.
Even if a carpet or laminate flooring has been used, there might well be enough good parts for it to be cut down to use in a different situation. Carpet can be cut down and bordered with other fabric or thread to make a rug.
Finding Reusable Flooring
Look for offerings in classified ads and on the Internet to find reusable flooring. There are many classified ad sites with items for sale on the Internet and other sites where people offer unwanted items for free. But this does need thinking about.
For example, is it better to buy a piece of 100% wool carpet with natural rubber underlay locally, or to drive a thirty mile round trip to get someone else’s cast-off flooring? And you need to take into account the trip that you may have to make to the local dump to get rid of your old carpet or flooring that you are replacing, unless there’s nothing at all there at the moment.
Assess Each Situation
As with so many cases, true sustainability means looking at all the different angles before making a decision as to which decision will deliver the best outcome for the planet. But we have to go through that pain if we are to stop the damage being done.