How to Dispose of Carpet Properly
Carpet doesn’t last forever, and there are numerous ways to get rid of it when the time comes—as well as ways to breathe new life into old carpet and minimize environmental impacts.
Q: After 10 years, my carpet is worn out with matted and shredding fibers, stains, odors, and damaged padding. I am not sure how to dispose of carpet, but I want to do it in the most responsible way possible and keep it out of a landfill. How do you dispose of carpet?
A: Just as it’s important to know how to remove carpet when the time comes, it’s also good to consider proper carpet disposal methods before tearing it all out. Wall-to-wall carpet tends to last about 5 to 15 years on average, depending on foot traffic, how often it’s cleaned, and humidity. If you’re noticing wear and tear, stains, odors, damaged padding, and mold in your carpet, it may indeed be time to remove it.
While it might seem easy to just toss old carpet out on the curb or in a dumpster, recycling or reusing it is a much better option. It is estimated that about 5 billion pounds of carpet was sent to landfills in 2017 alone, according to Carpet America Recovery Effort. To make the most of your old carpet and keep it out of a landfill, read on for the most eco-friendly methods for how to dispose of carpet, including recycling, donating, and upcycling.
Recycle old carpet and carpet padding to keep it out of landfills.
Is carpet recyclable? Most carpet can indeed be recycled! Carpet is made of fibers, plastics, and chemicals that are broken down into raw components during the recycling process. These materials can then be reused to manufacture new products, such as car interiors, industrial flooring, parking barriers, composite lumber (both decking and sheets), tile backer board, roofing shingles, carpet cushion, and more. Carpet padding can also be recycled, but this is done separately from carpet.
The best resource on how to recycle carpet is Carpet America Recovery Effort (CARE), a nonprofit organization working to build a carpet recycling system throughout the United States. To make recycling carpet easy, check out this map of CARE carpet reclamation partner locations.
In addition to CARE, when looking for ways to recycle old carpet, ask your carpet dealer, check with your local waste management company, explore government programs in your county or state, and look into companies that offer curbside pickup recycling services.
Excess carpet from a new installation can be donated.
Unfortunately, it is pretty rare that non-profit organizations will accept used carpet as a donation due to health and safety concerns. Plus, most organizations do not have the budget or staff to clean and transport the carpet. Many animal shelters, however, welcome pieces of old carpet to line the bottom of dog and cat kennels. There are also a number of online platforms where you can list removed carpet, such as Freecycle, Nextdoor, and Facebook Marketplace.
On the other hand, there are more donation options for new, unused carpet remnants, especially to organizations focused on home construction and restoration. Habitat for Humanity, for example, accepts brand-new carpet remnants. Just check with your local chapter and take note of their guidelines, which can include the minimum size of carpet pieces accepted.
Local flooring companies may dispose of old carpet.
Ripping up carpet is a tedious task that involves moving furniture, prying up carpet tack strips, carefully cutting carpet, removing carpet staples, and knowing how to remove carpet glue. While DIY carpet removal is doable, many homeowners may prefer to hire a professional carpet removal service to get the job done.
Oftentimes, carpet installation companies will also remove and handle matters like where to dispose of carpet as part of their pricing package. Both The Home Depot and Lowe’s offer carpet removal services along with installation. Some flooring companies also have recycling programs to pick up old carpet and padding to deliver it to a local carpet recycling facility. Be sure to ask your carpet retailer about their carpet removal, disposal, and recycling programs.
Upcycle used carpet around the house.
If recycling isn’t viable in your area or you’re looking for another eco-friendly way to make a new home for your old carpet, try upcycling. The difference between recycling and upcycling is that in the recycling process, components of a product are broken down to be reused; this is considered downcycling. On the other hand, upcycling is a creative process in which waste is considered a valuable resource for innovation.
As long as carpet is clean and in decent shape, it can be reused and upcycled. Here are some creative ways to transform old carpet into new-and-improved products for use around the house:
- Sew together multiple carpet scraps into a decorative area rug, front door welcome mat, or kitchen mat.
- Roll out pieces of carpet to kneel on when doing DIY home projects indoors on hard flooring or when working in the garden.
- Use carpet remnants to make a cat scratching post by wrapping carpet around a cylinder and stapling or gluing it in place.
- Muffle the sound of a loud washer and dryer by placing squares of old carpet underneath all four corners of the appliances.
- Cut pieces of old carpet to make DIY car floor mats.
- Line a pet crate or dog house with carpet to offer a cozy spot for your furry friend.
- Place carpet remnants under cars or lawn equipment in the garage to soak up drips that would otherwise stain the garage floor.
Junk removal services will dispose of carpet for you.
In many communities, old carpet is not treated as regular trash that can be left out on the curb for weekly garbage collection. It may be necessary to wait for bulk trash pickup days or to take the discarded carpet to a designated drop-off location. In fact, many community dumpsters and residential solid waste facilities do not accept large amounts of carpet. One reason for this limitation is that carpet is made from multiple layers of materials, including fibers and plastics, that don’t easily break down in landfills, so it is better to find another option for the carpet. It is certainly safer and more efficient to recycle or reuse old carpet.
One last disposal option is to call a junk removal service to find a recycling facility for you. An example is 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, which takes all types of household and commercial carpeting. After removing the carpet, the company evaluates its condition and tries to find the most environmentally friendly carpet disposal method available.
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