The Spruce Story
Back in 2005, we had the idea that far too much good quality flooring material was being needlessly discarded to landfill from across the flooring sector in the UK. At the same time, we realised that in Glasgow, as in many big cities across the country, people on very low or modest incomes struggled to afford the basic flooring requirements to adequately cover their homes.
The idea developed quickly from conversations with flooring manufacturers, suppliers, and wholesalers from across the UK about how we could collect their commercial flooring waste and end-of-line materials and fit them in the homes of those who need them the most.
So began a process of sorting and processing, along the way creating a sustainable social business model which would meet the environmental need to reduce waste and the social need to connect low-income households with cheap, good-quality flooring.
Providing a reuse/second life for this material also offered the chance for us to create several volunteering and work experience opportunities for people who wanted to improve their employment chances, or simply liked the idea of what we were doing and wanted to contribute their time and energy to help us build the idea into a reality.
And so, Spruce Carpets the UK’s first flooring reuse social enterprise was born in February 2005.
Over the years we have developed four main pillars of the business, each of which forms an important element of what we do:
- Social Support – We work with local authorities, Housing Associations, Charities/Foundations, Homelessness agencies and other social support organisations to make sure that our most vulnerable citizens can access free flooring in need.
- Donor Service – we provide a zero-waste management service to commercial organisations for their post-manufacture, end-of-line, or waste materials – commercial carpet, vinyl, and carpet tiles – all of which would be destined for landfill. These materials are predominantly new materials which have never been utilised in any commercial application, or off-cut pieces that have been returned, or unused from retailers.
- Contracted Flooring – We work with public and third-sector social support agencies to provide low-cost flooring packages for individuals and families accessing social assistance funding. Any surplus derived from this activity is reinvested in our social mission, ensuring that we can continue to meet the needs of those who are unable to access support with their household flooring needs. This also extends to our community support Give-Away where anyone in the community can visit us and take-away materials completely free to support their community activities.
- Supply & Fit – We built our own in-house supply and fit service to complement our direct domestic retail and commercial flooring activities. Commercial flooring activity is predominantly reused flooring supplied to the wider public and third sector – offices, community centres, local hubs etc.
In addition to these 4 pillars, we’re passionate about supporting local employment needs.
Volunteering & Employment – each year around 25 people volunteer or gain work experience with Spruce working in our Office and Sales Administration, warehousing and processing or fitting activities.
There were kids waking up in the morning and stepping onto bare floorboards and concrete floors. Putting an end to this inequality guides the work to this day.
What has grown around us is the range of partners who share our mission ranging from the donors who supply stock, to housing providers who help us to help customers.
We still walk into houses with bare boards. Now we have the team together to put things right.
- John O’Hagan – General Manager
Making sure people can access good quality flooring is essential if we are to ensure individuals and families have every chance to establish clean, warm, and comfortable homes. Our aim at Spruce is to provide a wide range of low-cost flooring options to people on low incomes, residents in social housing and those transitioning into new tenancies.
Re-Use – Why it’s Important
Currently, it is estimated that in the UK alone circa. 400,000 tonnes of carpet waste are disposed of each year, the majority of which is post-consumer (used carpet) products, with around 175,000 tonnes (44%) being post-manufactured (clean) material.
Close working relationships between designers, manufacturers, wholesalers, suppliers, retailers, and circular economy organisations have never been more important.
This is especially so given increased media and public opinion, greater consumer demand for environmentally friendly products and the Government’s move toward further legislation to strengthen the UK’s commitment to net zero by urging businesses to set credible short and long-term plans that can be independently verified.
Carpet Tile Re-use
A key growth area over the last few years has been the re-use of carpet tiles and in some cases, the resale of broadloom carpets. Commercial companies that offer large quantities of unused broadloom rolls often struggle to find sustainable re-use outlets.
At times, working with charities can be slow and not the ideal solution. If there is a charity with a hub that can accept volume and feed this through to smaller charities or outlets, then this would be advantageous in increasing broadloom re-use.
More and more carpet tile manufacturing companies have identified the social value that can be gained through donating carpet tile products that have not been sold on the market. Where certain products are being considered for re-use, outlets are identified and these are either give-away free of charge, donated to certain projects or passed on for a nominal fee, which allows the outlets to sell them at a low cost.
Industry Facts and Figures
Since 2007, Carpet Recycling UK (CRUK) has been collating and reporting on landfill diversion tonnages within the sector. Over the past eleven years, it has facilitated the increase in landfill diversion from 2% to 44% (2018) and diverted over one million tonnes of carpet waste otherwise destined for landfill.
As part of its commitment to its members and the wider environmental sector on an annual basis, Carpet Recycling UK, conducts a market survey of its member and non-member organisations to ascertain annual carpet waste tonnages.
The information is then compared with the previous year where market information and trends are identified. Every year after the data and information are assessed and verified, it becomes publicly available on their website and is disseminated widely via seminars, presentations, and information folios.