Approximately 15-20 million mattresses and box-springs are thrown out each year in the United States, according to the Mattress Recycling Council. Since as far back as they have been made, these mattresses have been destined for a landfill. Yet about 80% of the materials are recyclable, so it is easy to wonder why this is such an accepted and regular process. The state of Connecticut recently took action on that thought, instituting the nation’s first statewide recycling program for used mattresses and box springs.
As students leave their dorms for the summer, or people simply decide to upgrade their bedding, a lot of used and unwanted mattresses pile up all across the Constitution State. But thanks to the appropriately named Bye Bye Mattress program, schools, residents, and businesses now have the opportunity to drop off their mattresses at recycling centers for free.
HOW MATTRESS RECYCLING WORKS
About 50 cities across Connecticut, both in urban and rural areas, have joined the program as designated collection sites. Some even provide curbside pick-up. Residents also have the option to take their mattresses directly to one of two recycling facilities located in East Hartford and Bridgeport. Those who do will receive $2 per mattress.
HOW CONNECTICUT MADE IT HAPPEN
As Hartford Mayor, Pedro E. Segarra, said it, “We didn’t fall asleep on this.” The initiative started in 2011 in response to the closing of the Hartford landfill, which created a fee for disposing of mattresses. Fast forward to 2013 and the formation of the Mattress Stewardship Law, a law requiring manufacturers to submit a plan for collecting discarded mattresses. That plan became The Mattress Recycling Council, a non-profit set up to develop and manage the process. All of their hard work culminated on May 1, 2015 when state officials gathered to kick-off the Bye Bye Mattress program.
First, the top layer of the mattress is cut and separated. Interior materials are then pulled apart and separated by type. All of the soft materials, such as foam and fiber, are compressed and shipped to a company that will make them into a variety of new products. The metal springs and box springs are removed to be sent to scrap recyclers and then to steel mills and foundries. All of the wood is either chipped or shredded.
More than 80% of the components in a mattress can be reused. The springs, foam, wood and fibers can all be used to make new products like steel appliances, carpet and mulch.
RECYCLING BY THE NUMBERS
The funding comes from a $9 recycling fee that is attached to the price when a mattress or box spring is sold. On top of sustaining private sector jobs, the program is projected to save tax payers a million dollars in disposal fees annually, according to Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, Michael Sullivan.
“By eliminating disposal fees and making recycling more convenient, we expect to see a decrease in the incidents of illegal dumping of mattresses,” said Sullivan at the program’s kick-off event. “In Connecticut, we generate more than 3.8 million tons of solid waste each year. Mattresses will no longer contribute to that number.”
Currently, more than 50,000 mattresses end up in U.S. landfills every day. Due to a low compaction rate, they regularly take up over 20 cubic feet of landfill space, about four times that of regular garbage.
THE FUTURE OF MATTRESS RECYCLING
As the first monthly reports from recyclers and retailers are filed over the coming weeks, MRC expects to have initial insight into how well the program has been received by Connecticut residents. It will officially release cumulative data in an annual report to the state in October. The Mattress Recycling Council continues to work with public and private entities, such as hotels, universities and healthcare facilities, to expand its impact.
Similar programs are in the works and expected to launch in California and Rhode Island in 2016.