Written by futureofwaste

This article is part of our toolbox
“Tackling  waste in tourism & events”

While not always red, carpets are often used during exhibitions and trade fairs as an element of classiness and comfort. However, they are rarely kept or reused. By their sheer quantity, weight and volume, they represent a huge source of waste. We’ll explore some solutions to mitigate this waste stream within the MICE industry (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, Exhibitions).

Why?

Carpets are compact composite structures often made from numerous materials (such as petrol) that are difficult, if not, costly to separate and reprocess:

  • Only 3% of carpets are being properly collected for recycling on average around the world.
  • In the UK around 44% of carpet waste was reprocessed in 2018, which means that around 56% is still going to landfills (according to Carpet Recycling UK).

Learn more:

What?

Measure / estimate your current amount of carpet waste and the progress you can make. Ask yourself: How many meters of carpet were bought / thrown away / recycled?

Read our article Measure and estimate your waste reduction progress.

#1 Avoid carpet

Ask the organizers why do they want carpet (sound, aesthetics, space delimitation etc. )
and suggest whether you might do without
or use alternatives.

Possible if: you work along with the artistic direction of the event to make sure the alternative you offer match their needs and budget. Accompany them in identifying the unnecessary carpets.

Save money

Require anticipation: you should compare the cost with other reusable items that answer the signaletic and aesthetics needds of the events.

Requires know-how
Not always possible

Examples

  • Exhibition spaces in Berlin or Düsseldorf have been renovated, repurposing the unnecessary carpet  and thus reducing the space’s environmental and economic impact.

Suppliers

  • Sustitutos Ecologicos is a Colombian company which offers an alternative to traditional carpets. Working with coconut fiber as a raw material, they’re a great eco-friendly option for your carpet needs !

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#2 Rent carpets

Don’t buy the carpets, buy the services of carpet rental offers such as delivery, installation and dismantling. Carpets can live up to 20 years if they are well conceived and taken care of, while carpets at events usually last only a few days.

Possible if: you can find a carpet rental supplier in your country / destination. Rental implies a better anticipation and the involvement of stakeholders (e.g. cleaning services) to evolve practices such as throwing disposable carpets.

Easy to implement: the complete cost of rental for an event bigger than 200m² generally equals the cost of buying and disposing with a far lesser carbon footprint.

ImpactCarpets can live up to 20 years if they are well conceived and taken care off. While carpets at events, usually last a few days…

Require anticipation: involve your stakeholders (e.g. cleaning services) so that they might change their practices and refrain from throwing away carpets.

Suppliers

  • French company La Compagnie offers carpet rental services. Tiles are adaptable & can be reused up to 50x. Produced by Desso, they recycle them afterward.

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#3 Buy recycled carpets

Favor eco-conception: buy carpets which are conceived in a way that includes second-hand material and that can be recycled at the end of their life.

Possible if:
– Recyclability depends on the materials. Polypropylene, polyester, Nylon 6, wool, jute can be recycled well. Favour a limited number of fabrics. while avoiding the use of toxic substances.
– Make sure the carpet will be handled by a recycling facility. It’s not because it ‘s recyclable that is is recycled.

Gain trust and differentiate yourself: by showing that you care.

Cost money

Suppliers

  • Companies like Interface have started to transform their industries along with producers Union in the United States (with carpet America recovery efforts). In Europe (Optimum Program with UPMF) has interesting initiatives such a using fishing nets or windscreens.However,  the global industry’s value chain remains linear: most of the carpets end up buried or burnt (see study).
  • Check the validity of these environmental allegations.

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#4 Reuse and give away carpets

Use physical or online platforms to buy or give second hand carpets.

Possible if:
– Carpet reusal might work for small volumes and if your clients are not too picky with aesthetics. It’s more efficient to reuse carpet tiles rather than entire carpet rolls.
– Avoid flooring designs that result in curved or excess trim, which can impede reuse and recovery. Make sure the carpets are clean.

Save money: giving might prevent you to pay waste disposal taxes.

Cost time, require anticipation:  in case of reusal, take into account potential logistics and human resources costs.

Suppliers

  • An alternative for companies that have a recurrent need for carpets during their events is buying carpet tiles, which are easy to install, remove, and store. Companies like Interface are indeed specialized in supplying recycled carpet tiles.

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#5 Recycle carpets

Take carpets to your local recycling site, either in small pieces including tiles and rugs, or a whole carpet from your event. Most fibres can be extracted, collected, pelletised and used again in new products. The secondary raw material from carpets can be reused for new carpets, but also in industrial packaging, road signs, automotive, construction and food industries.

Possible if: The recyclability will depend on the carpet materials (see the eco-conception paragraph). Difficulties can arise with carpets that have been glued or in contact with asbestos.

Gain trust and differentiate yourself: by showing that you care.

Cost money:You’ll need 15 000 m² of carpet to fill a 7 ton truck. Try to mutualise the storage and transportation costs. Special costs may apply, check with your local recycling center.
Not always possible

Suppliers

  • In the United Kingdom, Carpet Recycling UK is a not for profit association tackling carpet waste and diverting it from landfill by working closely with every actor of its supply chain, from producer, event organizer, and recycling facilities.

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Finally, if you cannot prevent, reuse or recycle your carpets, check what the energetical recovery options are. Did you know that carpets can be transformed as Solid Recovered Fuel, an alternative to fossil fuels? Carpet waste can be reused as synthetic fuel pellets which are a source of heat and pure wool pellets  can be used as natural fertilisers for plants.

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This article is part of our toolbox
“Tackling  waste in tourism & events”

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Thank you to our authors as well as our expert proofreaders who contributed to fact-checking the content. This article has been written thanks to the contents collected during a workshop of the zero waste festival, and also, like the entire toolbox, thanks to the collaborative effort of:

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