Of the fifteen million mattresses disposed of each year in the United States alone, only a small percentage is recovered for recycling efforts. But as demand for and production of beds grows, the mattress recycling industry is expanding to accept an influx of old mattresses.
For organizations like hotels, hospitals, and educational institutions, mattress waste comes at a large—and often expensive—scale. Read on for the why, where, and how of mattress recycling.
Why Recycle Old Mattresses?
Mattresses are one of the bulkiest items in our landfills. A single mattress will take up an average of 33 cubic feet in a landfill. And if your company is disposing of old mattresses in bulk, this can quickly add up. Plus, mattress materials are not biodegradable or environmentally friendly—they decompose slowly, taking up space in our landfills for a long time to come.
According to the Mattress Recycling Council, over 75 percent of used mattresses are recyclable. By recycling your mattresses, you’re diverting valuable materials (such as metal and wood) from the landfill. Participating in mattress recycling efforts, particularly at a large scale, can do wonders for reducing your carbon footprint and building a more sustainable business.
Mattress Disposal Compliance
An often overlooked benefit of mattress recycling is that it ensures your business is complying with local waste regulations. In some cases, improper disposal of large waste like old mattresses can lead to high fees and legal trouble.
Improper disposal of mattresses can result in fines in certain states, with more expected to follow suit as mattress waste grows. Ensure compliance by properly disposing of and recycling used mattresses. The Rubicon RegWatch™ digital platform is the complete solution to help you stay on top of and manage your municipal or local, state, and federal regulatory and compliance obligations for the disposal of mattresses and many other materials.
How Does Mattress Recycling Work?
The process of mattress recycling is dependent on the materials of a given mattress. A standard box spring mattress is made up of the following:
- Foam padding;
- Steel springs; and
- Wooden frames.
Mattress recycling facilities begin by taking the used mattress, disassembling and cutting open the structure, and separating the layers. Next, the materials are organized and sent out for recycling by waste stream:
- Foam is repurposed into materials such as carpet padding. Fiber, fabric, and other soft materials are compressed and repurposed into things like industrial oil filters and cushion fillers.
- Steel, metal, and box springs are sent to scrap metal recyclers, mills, and foundries. These materials can then be repurposed into products such as kitchen appliances.
- Wood can be recycled and converted into mulch, or even fuel.
In recent years there has been a rise in the popularity of polyurethane foam-based mattresses, due to their portability and convenience. These newer mattresses would require slightly different recycling processes, as polyurethane must be shredded before being reused for other foam-based products.
Find Your Nearest Mattress Recycling Facility
Most areas in the United States will have a recycling facility or drop-off location that accepts used mattresses. With this option, it’s likely you will need to coordinate your own transportation to drop off mattresses.
Depending on the recycler, there may be a fee associated with mattress recycling. Use mattress recycling locators through sites like Earth911 or ByeByeMattress. These tools help you find your closest drop-off location for mattress recycling.
Buy From Retailers With Mattress Recycling Programs
Increasingly, retailers are building recycling fees into the cost of their mattresses. By buying from vendors with these programs in place, you will have free access to mattress recycling when the time comes to dispose of your old beds.
In some programs, this means old mattresses will automatically be taken upon purchase of a new mattress. This kind of program could be extremely beneficial for organizations dealing with mass mattress recycling waste being replaced on a rolling basis.
Work With a Hauler to Develop a Commercial Recycling Plan
If your business works with a software solutions company like Rubicon®, you may be able to build mattress recycling into your waste program.
In this option, a hauler would transport your used mattresses on a given schedule and bring it to the correct recycling center hassle-free.
Research Commercial Drop-off Programs and Sites
Businesses with a high volume of mattresses to recycle may qualify for reduced recycling fees, or free drop-off at commercial sites. The Mattress Recycling Council has commercial-specific programs across California, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. They offer free pick up from high-production organizations for mattress waste at over 50 or 100 units, depending on the state.
For location-specific mattress recycling options, always be sure to check with your local recyclers for more information, or contact the experts at Rubicon.
Mattress Recycling Solutions
Given the long life-span of a mattress, many commercial organizations don’t have a plan for recycling their old mattresses until it’s too late.
At Rubicon, we work to help businesses, both large and small, find appropriate recycling solutions for all of their waste streams in order to keep as much material out of landfills as possible.
Our recycling experts at Rubicon work with your organization to build a cost-effective, environmentally friendly mattress recycling solution to ensure you are saving (or even making) money, and keeping precious materials out of landfills.
Rubicon creates mattress recycling solutions for your business, and its full-service offerings cover other commercial waste streams including food waste, organics recycling, electronic and hazardous waste, and more.
Meredith Leahy is a Waste Diversion Manager at Rubicon. To stay ahead of Rubicon’s announcements of new partnerships and collaborations around the world, be sure to follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, or contact us today.