Ever wonder what to do with your old carpet? Before you throw it away, think about the many ways to reuse or recycle it for alternative uses. According to the Environmental Recovery & Consolidation Service, carpet is responsible for about 5 billion pounds of waste in U.S. landfills each year. Companies like Carpet America Recovery Effort (CARE) have successfully diverted waste from landfills with recycling programs that create value for the post-consumer carpet recycling industry. If you own a natural fiber rug, there are many options for recycling and reusing your sustainable floor coverings.
Some natural fiber rugs (especially the undyed, unbacked kind like Merida’s Abaca rugs) are completely biodegradable; at the end of their life as a rug, they can be chopped up and used as mulch or compost in your yard. For rugs that are not 100% biodegradable, there are some alternate uses to consider trying. Old rugs can be:
- Cut into small pieces and used as pads under heavy furniture
- Used as doormats to catch mud and water from outside
- Used as floor mats in a car
- Cut into strips wide enough to fit between the rows in your garden to prevent weeds from growing
If none of these options work for your rug, there are still other ways to recycle. CARE is a partnership between members of the carpet industry and government agencies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency, that is aiming to divert 40 percent of carpet from landfills by 2012. CARE provides a list of reclamation partners across the United States on its Web site that will recycle carpet for you. They usually charge between 5 and 25 cents per pound, because the process of separating the fibers and backing materials in carpets makes the recycling process a bit complicated.
Once reclaimed, carpets will go on to either be:
- Given to charity
- Turned into new carpet
- Separated into parts and made into different items
Some items that can be made from recycled carpet are auto parts, plastic lumber, sound barriers, landscape timbers, nylon pallets, and parking stops.
If you are more on the creative side, you can repurpose carpet into functional works of art. Ample Sample is a contest that challenges designers to “Rethink, Reuse, and Upcycle” carpet samples that would otherwise end up in landfills. There are some really interesting designs from the past couple of years of submissions, everything from a shoe holder (below ) to furniture, bags, and even a hammock!
Next time you plan on throwing out your carpet, think about some of these fun and sustainable ideas to prevent your carpet from ending up in a landfill.