Making mattress recycling commonplace nationwide

Julie A. Palm

Julie A. Palm, editor in chief

My city makes recycling newspapers, plastic bottles, cans and cardboard simple. The sanitation department provides residents with big blue plastic bins, and I can toss all the recyclables in without sorting anything. Every other week, I wheel the bin to the street. Recycling old electronics and hazardous materials, such as paint thinner and motor oil, requires a bit more work. We have to pack those up and drive them to a special recycling center.

But if I have a mattress I’d like to recycle, I’m out of luck. The city picks up used mattresses once a year during “bulky item pickup.” Renovators can grab them off the streets before sanitation crews do, and, even when the city picks them up, they aren’t recycled.

The issue of what to do with used mattresses has plagued everyone from consumers to local governments to retailers. If thrown into the trash stream, they take up an enormous amount of space in landfills and, thus, result in costly tipping fees. If not dismantled, they can be resold by unscrupulous renovators who may not properly sanitize or label them and who may not ensure that such mattresses comply with federal flammability standards.

In recent years, the mattress industry has battled a growing number of states that want to enact extended producer responsibility programs, which would require the mattress industry to fund and be responsible for the disposal of mattresses at the end of their useful lives.

The International Sleep Products Association has long promoted the idea of responsible mattress disposal, particularly recyclers that dismantle beds into their usable components and then sell the foam, steel and other shredded parts so they can be used to create entirely new products, such as carpet pads.

The association opposes a state-by-state solution to mattress recycling, which it says would be too burdensome and costly for the industry. Instead, it has proposed an efficient, cost-effective national solution to the problem.

ISPA needs the support of the entire industry—suppliers, mattress manufacturers, retailers—to help get the plan made into law. To see how you can help, contact Chris Hudgins, ISPA vice president of government relations, at 703-683-8371.

If ISPA succeeds, mattress recycling will become the national norm—maybe not quite as easy as tossing an empty soda bottle into the recycling bin, but just as commonplace and expected.

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