Best known for being the home of Yale University, Connecticut may soon be able to lay claim to being the first jurisdiction in North America to require mattress recycling. One of the main reasons for the legislation is that government officials estimate that Connecticut taxpayers are paying about $1.2 million a year to get rid of the 176,000 mattresses thrown out in that state annually.
If enacted, the legislation will require mattress manufacturers to form a stewardship organization and come up with a plan for recycling mattress by July 2013.
With over four million mattress and box springs being disposed in the United States every year (and a comparable 400,000 in Canada), a waste management issue is also a business opportunity. Perhaps the biggest driver in the growth in mattress recycling will be landfill bans. For example, Metro Vancouver banned the disposal of mattresses from landfills beginning in January, 2011.
An average mattress consumes 23 cubic feet (0.65 m3) of space in a landfill. High volume/low weight items like mattresses aren’t good for a landfill operator wanting to make money; landfill revenue is based on weight, and preserving volume (commonly referred to as “air space”) is the name of the game in landfills.
Technologies & companies
Almost any mattress, whether it’s spring-based, foam, or a futon, can be recycled. Likewise, practically any box spring, sofa, or couch can be recycled.
Typically a mattress is disassembled by hand into its component parts: wood, metal springs, cotton, and foam. Some of the more sophisticated recycling operations have mechanical shredders to shred the foam.
Virtually every part of a mattress can be sent to manufacturers who can reprocess the products into something new. Wood is typically sold to wood chippers which can use it make any number of products (e.g., mulch for gardens) or as fuel. The cotton and felt are sold to companies that use the materials for insulation. Quilting and foam can be turned into carpet underlay. The springs are sold to metal recyclers or directly to steel companies.
The mattress recycling companies in Canada are located within the three largest municipalities: Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.
Vancouver: There are three mattress companies located in the Metro Vancouver area. The establishment of the companies is in direct relation to the fact that Metro Vancouver municipalities now charge $20 for the disposal of a mattress.
Mattressrecycling.ca claims to be the first and largest mattress recycler in British Columbia. Located in Burnaby, the company recycles over 400 mattresses per day. It charges a residential rate of $12.50 for each mattress or box spring. To have a couch or arm chair recycled costs $38.
Canadian Mattress Recycling Inc., located in just south of Vancouver, charges a fee for recycling of mattresses at half the rate the city charges for disposal ($12). The plant employs 14 people.
The third Vancouver-based mattress recycler, Recyc-Mattresses Inc., also has facilities in Toronto and Montreal as well as in France and Florida.
Recover Canada has been in operation since 2008. Recover Canada specializes in rebuilding mattress for resale. The Toronto-based dismantles mattresses and heat treats all the cushioning as well as the steel components by dry convection heat to destroy all bed bugs and their eggs. After processing, Recover’s mattress components are suitable for reuse in rebuilt bedding. Approximately 80 percent of the all mattress components are reused with 20 percent destined for disposal.
Recover Canada charges $15 for a single mattress and offers a discount rate of $10 per mattress for six or more.
Matt Canada: If you’re looking for a deal for recycling your used mattress, Matt Canada, based in Montreal, only charges $10. In operation since 2004, Matt Canada has over 30 regular clients from various sectors including manufacturers, hotels, municipalities, universities, and environmentally-conscious individuals.
It’s clear that mattress recycling is a growing business. Landfill bans and legislation requiring extended producer responsibility of mattress manufacturers will only serve to increase the number of companies in the business.
To augment the revenue generated from mattress recycling, some companies also recycle other furniture and offer free recycling of other items that are profitable (i.e., metal-containing items).
John Nicholson, M.Sc., P.Eng., is a consultant based in Toronto, Ontario. Contact John at firstname.lastname@example.org