Spruce Carpets has just begun trading re-used carpets from its base in Glasgow. Set up by social entrepreneur Kate Atkinson, Spruce collects in donations of unwanted carpets in good condition from households and refurbishes them using a simple industrial cleaning process. Reconditioned carpets are then sold at low prices, ranging from £6 to £60, from the showroom in Ibrox, and also fitted for the customer at very affordable rates.
It's a really simple idea: matching the demand for low-cost carpets with all the good discarded carpets that are on street corners, whilst also diverting material from landfill and providing New Deal training in a well-paid trade. John Armstrong, the Operations Manager at Spruce, has had 37 years experience in the carpet industry and knows how to get carpets to come up really well, so customers have access to excellent refurbished Axminster carpets for less than the cost of new corduroy.
Although there is no formal referral process and anyone can access the service, Spruce Carpets markets only to homeless people resettling. Resettlers are also the core of volunteers for the project – during market research for the project, resettlement agencies said that many people who had just been rehoused experienced loneliness and would like to keep busy.
Donations of carpet tile also come from contractors refitting offices who save themselves the cost of landfill by sorting the tiles and delivering to Spruce Carpet's door. Refurbished tiles are supplied and fitted at low-cost to charities and other voluntary sector organisations.
The operation is small, with just two full time employees, three trainees and several volunteers. There aren't huge margins in the carpet refurbishment industry so keeping costs down is the best way to stay on track for breakeven. Funded until March 2006 by Transforming Waste Scotland and Scotland Unltd, the organisation is then hoping to be self-sufficient. As the months slip past, this looks more and more ambitious, but sales targets are being met and unless there are major set-backs it should be achievable.
Spruce Carpets is keen to replicate the idea of carpet re-use and recycling, and is looking at how it can best support other organisations who express an interest. The carpet manufacturing industry and floorcovering retailers are also strongly in favour of creating a network of re-users, so they no longer have to ship their take-back to Glasgow.
For more information or to donate a carpet, or get a quote for your home or office, contact:
Tel: 0141 425 1555.
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