The subject of sustainable flooring is a wide and varied one and there are a number of aspects that need to be looked at when comparing the sustainability of different products. When it comes to carpet the usual approach is to look at the sustainability of the raw materials and the manufacturing process and assess how green they are compared to man-made materials.
End of Life Options
People eager to be living a green lifestyle will look at what’s going to happen to the carpet at the end of its life but the focus is usually on the biodegradability of the carpet and its impact in landfill. But in many cases carpet isn’t biodegradable, or at least easily, and it’s often the case that local facilities do not exist to deal with any other carpet. A recyclable label on a product does not mean that it can or will be recycled once it’s no longer in use as carpet.
In any case, a lot of older carpet is unlikely to be recyclable or biodegradable, so thought needs to be given to other possible uses for carpet rather than burying or burning it at the end of its useful life. A great deal of carpet, particular at the cheaper end of the market, will have pile made of nylon or a nylon wool mix and foam backing. Both of these are by-products of the petrochemical industry and are not renowned for the speed at which they break down in the wild. So what else can be done with carpet?
Pass Your Carpet On
The first step is to see if someone else can reuse it as carpet as this is certainly the most green option. If it’s worn in one particular place then someone else might be able to use parts of it. For example a lounge carpet might have enough good areas to be used for a box room or a toilet.
If the worst of the wear is in the centre is might be possible to cut up enough of it to cover a staircase. If you don’t have a place to reuse old carpet in this way perhaps someone else can. Try placing an ad on a web group like freecycle or freegle, or on a local web forum, you might find someone who can reuse it.
Gardens and Outbuildings
One idea is to use it in the garden, although if it is 100% synthetic the purists might rail at this one. It can top off a completed compost heap, helping heat build up which hastens the composting process. A natural carpet, like an all wool blend with a hessian backing, can be used as a weed barrier or mulch layer.
Old carpet can be used as insulation but it’s unlikely to pass building regulations so it would have to be confined to areas like summer houses or sheds that you would like to use all year round. Fold old carpet over and tack it to the walls in between the battens, then cover with board. Make sure the fabric of the shed is solid to stop vermin nesting in the wall but drill a few small holes on the inside to let it breathe.
Use Smaller Sections
Cutting the carpet up into smaller pieces means it can be used to protect furniture or other possessions perhaps when they are in storage. It you use your car to take garden rubbish to the tip then some carpet cut to the size of your boot can help keep the car clean. If you live in an old house with uneven floors, small pieces of carpet can help level furniture up and will be relatively unobtrusive.
Finally, for a more playful green option, you can staple pieces of carpet to a suitably sized wooden structure and give it the cat as a scratching post.