Ellen is the inspirational founder and leader of Greenstream Flooring, a Community Interest Company that is the UK’s largest carpet tile reclamation organization.
What does Greenstream Flooring do?
Greenstream’s mission is to maximise the community benefit from the reuse and sale of flooring. We achieve our mission by running a national reuse/recycling service for commercial carpet tiles and a circular supply and fit service.
Why did you start Greenstream Flooring?
I was working on a recycling campaign in Wales when I became aware of the scale of the waste problem and the lack of options for a business who recognized their waste was a resource but did not have the capacity, links, or support to do anything about it.
What is the carpet industry doing to tackle climate change?
In the UK there is a long-standing voluntary sector group, CRUK (Carpet Recycling UK) which we are members of. However, the commercial flooring manufacturing industry is laggard compared to other sectors regarding its adoption of the circular economy.
Customers are starting to consider their carbon impact more thoroughly and as a result one or two flooring manufacturers offer carbon offsetting, life cycle assessment and Environmental Product Declarations. However, there is still a lot of high embodied carbon flooring being produced with little or zero regards for the end-of-life consequences.
What are the social issues that you’ve discovered since founding Greenstream?
One of the most shocking things I learned during Greenstream’s journey is that carpet poverty is a real and long-term issue, affecting millions in the UK. No social landlord in the UK is obliged to provide carpet or flooring for their tenants, and there are next to no small grant options that support carpet. This means that those who need the greatest assistance are housed in literally bare properties – no carpet, curtains or furniture. Leaving children to sit on cold concrete floors in the middle of winter.
At the same time, less than 0.5% of heavy-duty modular carpet that is replaced in offices in the UK every year is made available for reuse.
You can see how we are creating real meaningful social and environmental impact in our most recent Social Impact Report, but there is still a lot more we want to do.
What are you most proud of?
I am proud that we have contributed to the regenerative/circular economy agenda by helping to make flooring a carbon-limiting consideration.
We have rescued over 600,000 square metres of commercial carpet since our inception, created long-term employment in an area of high social deprivation from a unique regenerative/circular business and supported thousands of individual social housing tenants and community groups, with otherwise ‘wasted’ carpet.
If you were in charge of the UK, what three things would you do for the environment?
1. Mandate return schemes for plastic milk bottles, glass beer bottles and aluminium cans.
2. Have clearer consumer labelling for the environmental impact on products. Garments, cosmetics, food – you name it – need a consumer-friendly standardized label that makes it easy for consumers to make better informed, lower-impact choices.
3. Instigate a global carbon tax on products that forces producers to achieve a net zero carbon life cycle over a period of time and incentivises the use of non-virgin materials.