Carpet is a significant waste stream, with around 1.6m tonnes arising as waste every year in the European Union (EU). Most carpets are made from finite oil-based plastics – yet it’s estimated that less than 3% of European carpet is currently recycled.
Commissioned by the Changing Markets Foundation, Policy Toolkit for Carpet Circularity in EU Member States aims to ensure that by 2025 all commercial and household carpets, both broadloom and tiles, put on the market pose no health risk, and are separately collected, reusable and fully recyclable.
Aimed at national governments, the toolkit suggests a wide variety of policy instruments with Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) as a key element, and includes both ‘push’ incentives (on the supply side) and ‘pull’ incentives (on the demand side) designed to deliver higher recycling rates in the sector.
“The carpet sector has a unique opportunity to be at the forefront of circular economy, as several companies have shown that they can produce fully recyclable and toxic-free products. Governments must play a key role in this transition by putting in place ambitious policies to ramp up the recycling efforts in the sector. This toolkit provides a blueprint for mandatory policies that will drive investments in better design, collection and recycling of carpets,” said Nusa Urbancic, Campaigns Director at The Changing Markets Foundation.
According to the Changing Markets the toolkit outlines suggested criteria for mandatory eco-design measures (or ‘essential requirements’), including phasing out harmful substances, setting minimum levels for recycled content, recyclability requirements and product passports.
Other policy options set out include a graded ‘Green Carpet Mark’ (similar to the EU energy efficiency label) to help inform consumers about the environmental performance of their carpet, and Green Public Procurement to rapidly increase the market share for better designed and more recyclable products.
“We’re pleased to have brought together our understanding of the issues that currently prevent greater circularity in the sector and our experience in policy design in developing this toolkit. We hope that the toolkit will represent a key step in the move to better environmental performance, from design through to end-of-life management, for all commercial and household carpets,” said Mark Hilton, Head of Sustainable Business at Eunomia.
EPR schemes, whereby producers take responsibility for costs of dealing with their products at the end of life are encouraged by the EU institutions as a way to meet national targets on waste reduction and recycling. While written to guide national policies, many measures outlined in the toolkit could also be effectively applied at the EU level.
The EU is the second largest market for carpets, after the US, and is also one of the largest producers, with an estimated 65% of EU demand for carpets being fulfilled by EU-based companies.
Moving to circular economy has the potential to create even more jobs in this sector and reduce dependency on imported materials.