How to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint By Reusing Tarpaulins

How to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint By Reusing Tarpaulins


Reusing tarpaulins is an effective way to reduce your carbon footprint. Tarpaulins are large sheets of strong, flexible, water-resistant or waterproof material. They have many uses, from covering the cargo of trucks and boats, to providing shelter. Tarpaulins are often made of materials like polyethylene or polyvinyl chloride (PVC) which can take a very long time to decompose. By reusing tarpaulins instead of throwing them away, you can significantly cut down on waste and your environmental impact.

In this comprehensive guide, I will provide tips on how to prolong the life of your tarpaulins and reuse them for various purposes. Reusing tarpaulins helps the environment in multiple ways:

Benefits of Reusing Tarpaulins

Reduces Waste

Throwing away tarpaulins creates unnecessary landfill waste. Tarpaulins made from materials like PVC can take 500 years or more to decompose in landfills. By reusing tarpaulins, you can reduce the amount of waste you generate. Even old, worn out tarpaulins can be recycled into new products instead of being discarded.

Saves Resources

When you reuse an existing tarpaulin, you avoid the resources and energy required to manufacture a new one. The production process of materials like PVC requires natural resources like crude oil and natural gas. Reusing tarpaulins results in significant resource savings over time.

Reduces Carbon Emissions

The manufacturing process for tarpaulin materials generates considerable carbon emissions. Studies show the production of PVC releases pollutants like dioxins, VOCs and heavy metals. By reusing instead of replacing tarpaulins, you can reduce the carbon footprint of your activities.

How to Reuse Tarpaulins

Here are some tips to extend the life of your tarpaulins and reuse them:

Proper Maintenance

  • Store tarpaulins properly when not in use – Fold or roll up, don’t scrunch them.
  • Avoid exposing them to direct sunlight for extended periods when possible. UV rays damage the material.
  • Check regularly for holes or tears and repair them with tarpaulin tape to avoid further damage.

Reinforce Weak Points

  • Use tarpaulin tape to reinforce seams and points where ropes/ties may rub against the material.
  • Consider adding grommets at strategic points to distribute strain when tying down.

Repurpose Instead of Discarding

  • Turn old tarpaulins into durable bags, purses or even clothing like raincoats.
  • Use them as drop cloths for painting or protecting floors from messy construction work.
  • Cut into smaller pieces to make patches, window covers, etc.

Find New Applications

  • Use as a weed barrier in your garden, or as a pond liner for water features.
  • Protect materials stored outdoors from the elements.
  • Temporarily cover vehicles, woodpiles firewood, etc.

Examples of Tarpaulin Reuse

Here are some real-world examples of innovative tarpaulin reuse:

Fashion Company Retykle

The UK-based company Retykle makes bags and accessories out of used tarpaulins and banners. They collect end-of-life tarps from events, trucks, etc. and give them a second life as durable and waterproof gear. This diverts waste, reduces new plastic use and cuts carbon emissions.

“We give a new life to unloved and discarded tarpaulins. By reusing instead of recycling, we avoid the high carbon emissions associated with production of new plastic textiles” – Peter Johnston, Retykle founder.

Artist Joanne Gale

Canadian artist Joanne Gale creates paintings on reclaimed tarpaulin sheets. She gets used truck and boat tarpaulins from local companies that would otherwise discard them. apart from giving the tarps a second life, her art explores the passage of time and impermanence.

“I see potential and beauty in worn utilitarian objects like used tarpaulins. My work contributes to sustainability by extending the life of these materials.”

Community Tarp Sharing

Groups like the UK’s Just One Tree initiative collect leftover event tarps for reuse. They lend out these tarps to local charities, community groups and schools for free, facilitating reuse over disposal.

“It’s incredible how many applications old tarps can be reused for by schools, charities and community groups once given a second chance.” – Just One Tree.


Reusing tarpaulins requires some creativity and effort, but has tremendous environmental benefits. It reduces waste, saves resources, and lowers your carbon footprint. With proper maintenance and storage, you can extend the life of your tarps significantly. Repurposing them for new applications also gives these materials new value. Every tarpaulin that is reused instead of discarded helps lower impacts. By following these tips, you can reuse tarps and become more sustainable.