So you just bought a new mattress and are ready to finally get a good night’s sleep? You set up the mattress on your bed frame. You lay down on it for second and relish in the comfort you will soon be experiencing every night. Then, out of the corner of your eye, you see your old, ugly, worn out mattress. What are you going to do with that thing? It’s a question that all new mattress buyers grapple with.
Almost 20 million mattresses are sent to landfills or incinerators every year in the United States. This results in 450 million pounds of material occupying over 100 million cubic feet of landfill space. Conventional Mattresses are a terrible addition to landfills. They are difficult to compact, so they take up a large amount of space. Conventional mattresses contain synthetic foam and fibers, which are not biodegradable. Additionally, most conventional mattresses contain hazardous flame retardant chemicals which can potentially work their way into our drinking water.
The great tragedy of the vast quantities of mattresses which end up in landfills is that most materials in mattresses can be recycled. According to mattress recyclers, 85% to 95% of the material used in a mattress can be recycled.
The average mattress contains 25 pounds of steel. By weight, steel makes up the largest component of an average mattress. With steel recycling facilities across the USA, it is also the easiest component to recycle. One issue that mattress recyclers can have is compacting steel springs enough so that they can be transported to a scrapyard in a cost effective manner. Once removed from the mattress, the steel can be melted down and reused.
Most mattresses also contain a large amount of polyurethane foam, which is fairly simple to reuse. Foam can be shredded and sold to carpet padding manufactures. Carpet padding manufacturers compress the shredded foam and bond the shredded pieces together to create carpet padding. Thicker “rebond” foam can also be created through a similar process. Rebond foam can be found in vehicle seating, motorcycle seating, exercise equipment and many other applications where extremely dense foam is needed.
Natural Fibers such as cotton can be shredded or used to create fiber like yarn. This yarn will then be cleaned and respun before being reused in another textile application. If the fibers are shredded they will go through a similar cleaning process before being used as a filling in a new application such as a sofa cushion, dog bed or even another mattress.
Synthetic fibers such as polyester are shredded and granulated into small polyester “chips”. These chips can be melted and used in new polyester textiles. Many clothing items and mattress fabrics incorporate recycled polyester.
Before you call up your local mattress recycling facility, there are some other options you may want to consider. Consider giving your old mattress to a friend or family member. Many old mattresses can be given new life with a new comfortable mattress topper. Putting your old mattress back into use is the ultimate way to recycle it. It is the least energy intensive and most cost effective way to improve old mattress. If you can not find anyone that will take your mattress, you may be able to give it away (or sell it) on craigslist. You can also check with local charities or thrift stores to see if they accept used mattresses. (This is becoming harder due to the increasing presence and awareness of bed bugs) Be sure to check with the charity to ensure your mattress can be reused. The most common mattress size in the US is Queen but charities are usually most in need of Twin or Twin XL mattresses.
If you've considered the above possibilities and still want to get rid of your old mattress, it's time to find a mattress recycling facility! Check out our list of mattress recyclers to find the best option near you. We have tried to ensure all of the information is as complete and accurate as possible but you should call to confirm before dropping your mattress off. If you have any additional information we can add to our list, please let us know!
LaBlanc, Rick. "Textile Recycling to Divert Material From Landfills." About Textile Recycling. About.com, n.d. Web. 29 May 2014. <http://recycling.about.com/od/Glossary/a/About-Textile-Recycling.htm>.
"DOR Mattress Recycling." DOR Home. Iowa State University, n.d. Web. 30 May 2014. <http://www.housing.iastate.edu/life/sustainability/mattress-recycling>.
Grayson, Jennifer. "Eco Etiquette: Used Mattresses - Icky Or Eco?" The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 20 July 2011. Web. 30 May 2014. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jennifer-grayson/eco-etiquette-used-mattre_b_905152.html>.
Fowler, Carol. "Mattress Recycling: Industry Calls For National Plan - Viewpoints Articles." Viewpoints Articles. Viewpoints, 18 Mar. 2014. Web. 30 May 2014. <http://www.viewpoints.com/expert-reviews/2014/03/18/mattress-recycling-industry-calls-national-plan/>.