Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Carpets and air conditioners

Spent Saturday morning cleaning the room for the kids' after-school club. Part of this annual ritual is replacing the carpet. Last year we took the old carpet up to reveal the tatami mats below. I wasn't sure what was going to happen to this carpet, wondering perhaps if it was going to be beaten and then put back on the floor. A new one appeared and the old one was taken away. It turns out this happens every year.

Carpets are not that expensive, but they're certainly not free. Tatami mats are expensive, so it may make financial sense to protect them.

It's difficult to make sense of it in terms of ecological accounting and oil economics. Tatami is a low-carbon agricultural product that is completely recyclable. It is basically woven straw. Traditionally when they are worn out, they are taken out into the fields where they will draw insects away from crops, or they could be left on soil before planting to keep the weeds down.

Anyway, they present a part of a cycle that leaves a light tyre-print on the planet.

Carpets, on the other hand, are usually an amalgamation of materials that are far less friendly. Many are synthetic, with acrylic fibres glued onto a plastic backing. The fibres are all short and not much use for recycling into other textiles, even if they could be separated from the rest of the materials.

"Where are we going to throw this away?" somebody asked. Good question! Probably not into recyclables.

And don't even let me get on to the air conditioner.