With over four million old mattresses and a similar number of box springs being disposed of every year, the management of this waste stream has emerged as a solid waste management issue, and a recycling opportunity. Landfill pressures and environmental responsibility initiatives have helped position mattress recycling as an emerging opportunity within the recycling industry, with more mattress recycling operations continuing to open. Here is a brief overview.
Why Recycle Old Mattresses
Almost 4.5 million mattresses and 4.5 million box springs are sent to the landfill or incinerator every year in the United States, according to Nationwide Mattress Recycling, amounting to 250 million pounds of mattress material. With an average mattress consuming 23 cubic feet of space in a landfill, and the threat of fire retardants leaching from them, there is increasing pressure from landfills to divert mattresses.
At the same time, environmental initiatives by the mattress industry, retailers, institutions and the hospitality industry also are creating an increased demand for mattress recycling services. The good news is that mattresses are largely recyclable - over 95% on average according to one mattress recycler.
Sources of MattressesSources of mattresses can include:
- municipal waste management and recycling programs
- Hotels and other hospitality industry generators of old mattresses
- Mattress manufacturers and retailers offering to recycle old mattresses
- Individual households
- Charity programs that generate unusable mattresses while attempting to provide mattresses to those in need
Sources of Revenue
Typically, mattress recyclers charge to accept old mattresses – based on websites reviewed, this is typically in the $12 -20 range. Recycled materials are also sold.Facility and Equipment Requirements
A mattress recycling facility requires covered warehouse space with receiving/shipping doors and dockplates to receive inbound mattresses, a tear down area for disassembling mattresses, and storage for unbaled and baled residuals of the teardown process.
How the Mattress Recycling Process Works
Mattresses and box springs are created from a number of materials, including wood, metal, fabric and plastic, which can all be recycled once separated. Recovery of recyclable materials is over 95%. At Canadian Mattress Recycling, operators take apart box springs and mattresses by hand. As these products are being dismantled, materials are sorted and segregated. Some materials are baled to save space in the recycling facility and provide transport efficiencies. Wood can be reduced to chips and steel sent to steel recyclers. Materials recovered can include:
Markets for Recovered Materials
Aside from receiving compensation for incoming mattresses, recyclers also hope to generate revenue from recovered materials:
- Quilting and foam can be turned into carpet underlay.
- Wood is recycled into biofuel or other recycled wood products
- Plastic is recycled by plastic recyclers
- Steel from the boxsprings is recycled into new metal products
- Cotton and felt can be recycled into new felt and insulation
Mattress Recycling Companies and Organizations
Here are two lists of organizations in the United States and Canada that take recycled mattresses and box springs: