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Press Release: Up in smoke – dirty secrets of UK carpet recycling revealed

Press release: The smoke disappears-the dirty secret of British carpet recycling reveals

Brussels November 27, 2019

New surveys from the ever-changing market, Europe’s Zero Waste and the UK’s No Incineration Network (UKWIN) show that nearly 130,000 tons of carpets are incinerated every year, causing huge losses to society

Carpet waste is a big problem in the UK, because every year an area the size of Birmingham is thrown away. It causes a climate cost of 16.5 million pounds to the society every year. In fact, less than 2% of carpet waste is recycled. Ninety percent of Britons have carpets in their homes, and nearly two-thirds want the British government to take action to solve this waste stream problem. Consumer survey. Carpets may contain more than 59 toxic chemicals, including suspected carcinogens, endocrine disruptors, and reproductive toxic substances. The changing market, zero waste in Europe and UKWIN call on the British government to pass legislation to increase carpet recycling rates.

Members of the trade association established to encourage the recycling of carpets in the UK-named "Carpet Recycling in the UK"-cause 128,480 tons of carpets to be incinerated every year-discharge of dangerous toxic chemicals and a large amount of carbon emissions, causing losses to the British society only in unpaid In terms of climate damage, there is approximately 16.5 million pounds a year.

These are the results of Smoke and Mirrors' investigation, a new investigation from the ever-changing market foundation and UKWIN, which exposed the greening practices of Carpet Recycling UK (CRUK).

Almost nine out of ten Britons have carpets in their homes, and 400,000 tons of carpets are discarded every year in the UK-the size of Birmingham. CRUK includes John Lewis as one of its members,[i] was established in 2008 to transfer carpets from landfills and recycle raw materials. [ii]

CRUK publicly celebrated the increase in landfill transfer from 2% to 44%. [iii] However, the new briefing shows that nearly three-quarters (73%) of this transfer in 2018 took the form of incineration. [iv] Only 2% of transferred carpet waste is recycled and used in non-shredded products such as carpet underlays and car fillers; less than 1% is reused. [v]

Rachel Mulrenan from a constantly changing market said:

"The British Carpet Recycling Company has been unable to achieve the ambitious, bold and thorough changes required by the carpet industry to drive the transition to a circular economy. Instead, the organization uses its landfill transfer rate as an essentially large-scale incineration of precious resources The smokescreen. It’s absurd for us to burn carpets in a climate emergency. This clearly shows that the voluntary industry-led approach has failed and that the next British government should pass ambitious legislation to tackle this wasteful industry.”

A survey of British consumers[vi] showed that the majority (68%) are willing to recycle their carpets, but 70% believe that it is the responsibility of the carpet manufacturer to promote the recycling process. Nearly two-thirds (65%) of Britons believe that the British government should take measures to ensure that large items are not landfilled or incinerated.

Previous studies have found that carpets in the European Union may contain more than 59 toxic chemicals, including suspected carcinogens, endocrine disruptors and reproductive toxic substances. [vii] Carpets made of PVC backing will release dioxins when burned, which is a known carcinogen, and a recent report showed that the US Center for International Environmental Law stated that burning plastic waste "will release Toxic substances, including heavy metals such as lead and mercury, acid gases and particulate matter". [viii] Nearly two-thirds (64%) of Britons are concerned about the number of toxic chemicals found in carpets.

Shlomo Dowen, UKWIN National Coordinator, said:

"In order to make extensive carpet recycling a reality in the UK, people who make new carpets need to redesign their products. Incineration is the opposite of recycling, because incineration destroys materials instead of preserving them, and is certainly not environmentally friendly. Carpets are mainly made of plastic. , It releases harmful greenhouse gases when burned. The climate hazards caused by incineration cannot be concealed. According to the'polluter pays' principle, it is fair for those responsible for carpet pollution to be forced to pay for the damage they cause."

Of the diverted carpets, 22% are shredded and used as the surface of outdoor equestrian fields (manèges), which raises additional concerns about harmful substances polluting the soil and air when horses trot on the carpet and release fiber particles. In addition, CRUK claims that this is recycling, but in fact, shredded carpets cannot be reused and will eventually pollute the environment.

Rachel Mulrenan from a constantly changing market continued:

"Only a small portion of carpet waste is actually recycled, which is a huge opportunity for waste. The current system means that society is discarding or burning billions of pounds of valuable materials, while polluting the environment and having a negative impact on human health During the climate crisis, transforming the carpet industry into a circular economy model is essential to solve its hidden waste problem and curb our carbon emissions."

Larissa Copello from Zero Waste Europe said:

“As the report shows, voluntary agreements are limited. By focusing on downstream initiatives, such as incineration and downgrading recycling, they avoid the core of solving the waste crisis. What the carpet industry needs is binding and ambitious policies, by ensuring carpet design In order to be adequately dealt with at the end of the service life and solve the problem from the source, expanding the responsibility of the producer is an important policy tool to ensure the recycling of carpets, because the cost adjustment in the EPR may encourage producers to better design their products and reward Non-toxic, reusable and fully recyclable carpets. In fact, some major European carpet manufacturers have supported mandatory EPR plans to promote the transition to a circular economy."


For the government:Now is the time to enact ambitious legislation—in the form of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR). The British government listed carpets as one of its five priority areas in the 2018 UK Resources and Waste Strategy (under “bulk waste”), but no action has been taken since. The EPR of the carpet industry will formally determine the responsibility of the carpet. Eunomia's recently released EU Member States Carpet Cycle Policy Toolkit[ix] has identified a series of policy options for the UK, including: mandatory green-design measures. Mandatory producer responsibility extension. Provide consumers with better labels. Mandatory green public procurement of carpets. Clear waste treatment standards and high standards for recycled materials and related products. Consumer information activities to support individual collection and understanding of labels.

Mandatory green design measures. Mandatory producer responsibility extension. Provide consumers with better labels. Mandatory green public procurement of carpets. Clear waste termination standards and high standards for recycled materials and related products. Consumer information campaign to support separate collection and understanding of labels.

British carpet recycling

CRUK should publicly support the call for EPR legislation and related measures in the UK.

For carpet manufacturers

The carpet industry needs to shift to better-designed products that can be reused and recycled. The carpet needs to be made of a fiber that is easy to separate and non-toxic. Solutions already exist, but they need to be scaled up quickly. At the end of its useful life, the carpet must be recycled in a closed loop so that the material can be recycled indefinitely without degrading its performance.

Read the report here


Media contact

For more information, pictures and interview requests, please contact:

Max Boon 07765325141 or

About the Changing Market Foundation

The Changing Market Foundation collaborates with non-governmental organizations to carry out market-centric activities. Its mission is to expose irresponsible corporate behavior and promote change to achieve a more sustainable economy. / @ChangingMarkets


Due to the adverse effects of incineration on recycling, climate change, resource security, health and the environment, UKWIN is a community and personal network dedicated to opposing the UK’s new waste incineration capabilities. / @UKWIN_Network

About Zhongwei

Zero Waste Europe is a European network of communities, local leaders, companies, experts and change agents dedicated to eliminating waste in our society. We empower communities to redesign their relationship with resources and adopt smarter lifestyles and sustainable consumption patterns based on the circular economy.

[i] CRUK (2019) Our members. [Online] Available at:

[ii] CRUK (2019) Regarding carpet recycling in the UK. [Online] Available at:

[iii] CRUK (2019) Carpet recycling in the UK: Increased landfill transfer of carpet waste.

[iv] CRUK (2019) Recycling and circular economy design [Incineration is classified as incineration-EfW and recycled fuel].

[v] CRUK (2019) Carpet recycling in the UK: Increased landfill transfer of carpet waste.

[vi] Censuswide conducted a survey of British consumers in 2009 on behalf of the ever-changing market in November 2019.

[vii] Anthesis (2018) Toxic Substance Testing: How the chemicals in European carpets harm health and hinder the circular economy. March. [Online] Available at

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