Spring Back recycling program continues to grow

Stacks of mattresses for recyclingSince it first began as a student project at Belmont University in Nashville in 2010, Spring Back has come a long way. The project, launched by students in the Belmont University Enactus (then Students in Free Enterprise) team, was started as a way to achieve the triple bottom line: people, planet and profit.

The mattress recycling company employs formerly incarcerated men in an effort to help them lead productive lives, while at the same time keeping unwanted mattresses out of landfills.

After winning the national Students in Free Enterprise prize, Spring Back was incorporated as a 501(c)3 nonprofit in April 2012, and began operations in its first Nashville location.

“Spring Back Recycling is an ideal triple bottom line social enterprise, providing an economic, social and environmental benefit,” said Dr. John Gonas, the Belmont professor who serves as an Enactus faculty advisor. “Not only do the men…have access to sustainable employment and small business training, but hundreds of thousands of pounds of solid waste are being diverted from area landfills.”

Today, the company has four locations: Spring Back Nashville, Spring Back Denver, Spring Back Northwest (in Tacoma, Wash.) and Spring Back Charlotte, which just opened in North Carolina.

The Charlotte location, which held a soft opening at its 7,500-square-foot facility in December and is slated to begin accepting mattresses Jan. 2, has partnered with The Harvest Center, an area nonprofit that works with men coming out of homelessness and addiction, said Jess McDowell, owner of Spring Back Charlotte.

McDowell said while Spring Back Charlotte will initially service the Charlotte-metro area, ultimately he’d like to expand service to all of North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and even Georgia.

Gonas said that Spring Back is looking at additional locations and that there has been “a lot of interest” in the program.

“We have people in every big city that have expressed interest,” said Gonas, adding that Spring Back makes sure that the right partnerships are set up with retailers and material buyers before opening a new center.

“We’re going to start work on the fifth one soon,” said Gonas. “We want to put them all over the country very strategically.”

The original location in Nashville is closing in on 50,000 mattresses recycled, said Gonas, and Spring Back Northwest, run by mattress industry veteran Bill Lemke, has just celebrated its six-month anniversary.

Gonas said that the organization is adding more programming to balance the social benefit that Spring Back offers to formerly incarcerated men, including teaching financial literacy and other life skills.

Retail Product Consultant and industry veteran Barrie Brown helped get the organization started in the early days, first by suggesting students look into the area of mattress recycling and later by enabling partnerships within the industry.

“It’s actually staggering from where we started a few years ago to where we are now,” said Brown. “We have impacted these men by giving them jobs; we have impacted the environment by keeping mattresses out of landfills; and we have impacted retail by giving sales people something to talk about. It’s just a win-win situation all around.”