Recycled with class

An interview with Lee Chambers of Midland Carpet Tile Recycling (MCTR), which has as its main goal the potential reuse of as many carpet tiles as possible

Each year about 25m sq m of carpet tiles are cleared from offices and buildings across Europe, with most of them ending up in landfill.

Only a small number of carpet tiles are totally recycled, which represents a low level of reuse compared to many other waste products.

It’s a fact that old carpet tiles are seen by many contractors as a disposal problem rather than an opportunity to go green, recycle and help the planet.

However, there are carpet tile recycling companies that are committed to getting that message across, however long it takes.

One person who is making a success of re-use is Lee Chambers of Midland Carpet Tile Recycling (MCTR).

Based in Rubery, Birmingham, Lee and his team have one goal in mind – reducing the number of carpet tiles that end up in landfill.

Lee has been in the office furniture business for 25 years but it was only by chance that MCTR started up, coming into existence after one clear out job four years ago.

Lee explains: ‘We were clearing office furniture off a site and noticed there were thousands of almost new carpet tiles about to be thrown into a skip.

‘We were asked if we wanted them and said yes. The rest is history because we could sell them on to be reused.
‘The company was set up after we saw this as an opportunity not only to make some money but to do our bit for the environment and, at the same time, help contractors to save money on skipping costs.

‘Our customers are all over the UK as are the demolition contractors who offer us tiles and we now clear tiles from anywhere in the UK’

Lee says the company’s goal is to see as many carpet tiles as possible reused. When that is not possible the tiles are sent for disposal in an eco-friendly manner, and filtered for energy waste.

‘We work closely with many demolition companies and individual businesses that are relocating or clearing offices,’ Lee says.

MCTR has an ISO14001 Certificate, which is an important issue for all companies and local authorities, Lee believes.
‘It may seem like just another standard or more bureaucratic paper-shuffling, but that is to miss the point.

‘The ISO 14001 environment management standard is about making sure that businesses think about the way they do their work and the impact it has on the environment.’

When tiles are of a good usable quality MCTR not only clears free of charge but also offers a monetary incentive if the quantities are high enough.

‘Our main aim is to reuse as many tiles as possible by re-circulating them back out into the world to be used again, and we also offer tiles of a lesser grade free of charge to companies that may just want to put them down in factories to make the floor warmer or as insulation in loft spaces where the lesser quality tiles get to live again,’ Lee says.

Last time Contract Flooring Journal spoke to contractors on sustainability there was a feeling that it was tough to get the environmental message out. Lee thinks it is still something of an upward struggle.

‘We say to all contractors that approach us with the idea ‘don’t throw your carpet tiles away if they can be reused. If they can’t be reused can we recycle them for you and try and beat your skipping costs. That does make a lot of them think about the issues.’

He agrees that while green issues are important to many contractors, other concerns can sometimes take preference, such as workforce matters and costs.

‘The contractors we deal with are contracted to clear buildings and get the building emptied and refurbished fast, so yes, I would say sometimes they don’t care what happens regarding green issues.

‘That’s because it’s all about money and throwing 10,000 carpet tiles into a skip is the least of their worries – that’s where we come in.

‘We can save them money , make a little money ourselves and get the end user a deal while saving landfill and the environment as well. Everybody wins.’

Green credentials should be an important issue for anyone in the industry, Lee says, and he feels politicians should be getting more involved.

‘I think central government could do more to get the message across, such as promoting recycling better, but from a contractor’s point of view it’s all about getting the job done fast and in half the time.

‘They are working to a timescale to get buildings refurbished and quickly, because every day they are not being rented out is costing landlords money, and in London this is a lot of money that can be lost so they simply get the skips in and throw them away.’

What steps does he think contractors could take to be more sustainable?

‘From our point of view they just need to think more about saving money by re-use and that, in the long run, everyone will benefit from recycling, whether it be from re-using carpet tiles or other landfill products.’
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This article was previously published in the Sustainability Guide