The idea of sleeping on a brand-new mattress easily conjures up a smile because people know they’re in store for a better night’s sleep. Goodbye lumps, sags and achy backs. Hello sweet dreams and waking up feeling refreshed.
Regardless of what type of mattress will best fit your queen bed dimensions, you have to move the old one out to make room for the new, and therein lies the conundrum of how to dispose of a mattress in an environmentally friendly manner.
According to industry reports, 40 million mattresses are purchased in the United States every year. If you think about all the places that require a bed, from private homes to hotels, hospitals, universities, correctional institutions, etc., that statistic isn’t so surprising. However, the industry also reports that 20 million mattresses are discarded every year, which creates an environmental hazard if they all head to landfills.
Mattresses have become a blight on landfills because they do not compress properly. After all, some of them are filled with springs, so they spring back. Mattresses also take up a lot of space, an estimated 23 cubic feet of landfill space per mattress. So when you do the math of 50,000 mattresses dumped per day, that’s another 1.15 million cubic needed every day
In recent years, mattress manufacturers and retailers have joined efforts to reverse this trend by investing in recycling endeavors. It’s worthwhile to point out this is different from “renovating” mattresses, a process some say is questionable because there’s little regulation preventing renovators from simply sewing a new cover over old, dirty, maybe infested mattresses and selling them to unsuspecting customers.
Rather, recycling involves dismantling the mattress and/or box spring and farming out the materials to be used in other applications. For example:
Steel innersprings are sold for scrap metal.
Foam and fibers are shredded and repurposed into carpet padding or insulation.
Wood frames are chipped up to be used in mulch, animal bedding or even biomass fuel.
In fact, nearly 100% of mattress materials can be recycled.
Making an Effort
Mattress recycling centers have popped up across the country in recent years, some in conjunction with departments of corrections and other organizations dedicated to reengaging disenfranchised workers.
Their customer base is growing, too. Both the U.S. Navy and Hilton Worldwide have gotten behind the recycling movement. In less than three years, each organization has sent thousands of mattresses to be recycled. Of course, these efforts will make a big impact on managing landfills, but every household can do its part, too. The International Sleep Products Association maintains a database of mattress recycling centers at www.sleepproducts.org.
Still, it’s a small sector within the recycling industry, and sometimes the operational costs exceed the prices businesses can garner for the resulting materials. Because of that, many charge a fee to take mattresses off of people’s hands; it’s nominal, often less than $15 or $25.
However, knowing you are not contributing to the landfill overuse is priceless and should help you sleep better.