Can Carpet Be Recycled? Environmentally Friendly Options

Carpet rolls trowed out for garbage
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Nearly all types of carpet can be recycled, but the process may not be as simple as putting your old carpet out for curbside recycling.

Because carpet is made from so many layers of materials, including fibers and plastics, they don’t degrade easily in landfills. Many municipalities won’t even accept carpets if you toss them out with your other household trash for this exact reason. Instead, you may have to take them to a designated waste disposal site.

Carpet America Recovery Effort (CARE), a joint industry-government non-profit whose mission is to develop carpet recycling solutions, estimates that 5 billion pounds of carpet were sent to landfills in 2017. There, they can leach toxic chemicals into the soil and groundwater and release greenhouse gases for hundreds of years until they finally degrade.

Recycling carpet is a much more sustainable option. Carpet recyclers break them down into raw materials and process those materials so they can be reused for things like automobile interiors and flooring. 

Can You Recycle Carpet Padding?

Carpet padding, the material underneath a carpet, is also recyclable. A majority of companies that accept carpet for recycling will also take carpet padding. Carpet and carpet padding are recycled separately, so ask the recycler directly to ensure that both materials are accepted.

How to Recycle Carpet

Organizations typically don’t accept donations of used carpets because of health and safety risks, so you really only have two choices to dispose of your old carpet—trash it or recycle it. Tossing your carpet in the trash and sending it to a landfill isn’t an eco-friendly option, so your best bet is to recycle it.

The carpet recycling industry is small but consistently growing thanks to the work of CARE. To find a recycler near you, follow these guidelines.

Check With Your Local Waste Management Company

This should be the first step you take when considering recycling your old carpet. If your local waste management company does not accept carpet for recycling, they will likely be able to point you in the right direction toward another company that will accept the item.

Many states have established government entities to oversee carpet recycling, so there may be a program in place where you live. Your local waste management company will be able to confirm whether this is the case.

Drop-Off Locations

There are several carpet collector sites in the United States. You can look at CARE’s Collector Finder Map to find a drop-off site near you. But don’t be discouraged if you don’t see a site on this list in your city or state. Finding one may just require a little more internet sleuthing or calls to other nearby waste management companies for guidance.

Pickup Services

It’s very uncommon for local curbside pickup recycling services to accept disposed carpet for curbside pickup. This is mostly because carpet is so bulky and difficult to handle, but it could also be because your local waste management company doesn’t have the equipment necessary to recycle carpet.

That said, many flooring retailers do have recycling programs where they will pick up your carpet (and padding) and deliver it to a local carpet recycler. If you’re getting ready to install new carpet in your home, it’s worth asking the retailer if they have a program like this.

Other companies will pick up and deliver your used carpet to an appropriate recycler for a fee, no matter what brand of carpet it is. An example of a company that does this is Mohawk Group.

Ways to Reuse Carpet

As long as the carpet is clean, you can reuse it. After you remove old carpet from one room, you can actually install it in another room in your house if desired. This is a great option if you’re removing carpet from a low-traffic room.

You can also reuse carpet in various DIYs and crafts. If you have a number of carpet scraps, for example, you can sew them together to make a decorative rug or a kitchen mat. Some other ideas for reusing carpet scraps include:

  • Cat scratching toy
  • Kitchen mat using carpet scraps
  • DIY rug
  • Welcome mat for your front door
  • Padding under exercise equipment
  • Area rugs
  • Car mats