Can mattresses be recycled?
Whether you’re looking to recycle it, give it away, or trash it, mattresses pose a significant disposal challenge.
Mattresses are difficult to recycle because they are so bulky and are comprised of multiple materials. Most of those materials — the metal, plastic, wood, and textiles — are individually recyclable, but the mattress must be first dismantled and the recyclable parts separated. According to a study commissioned by CalRecycle, most of the millions of mattresses disposed of every year end up in a landfill, even though 85 percent of a mattress’s mass “can be readily recycled through simple manual disassembly.”
In 2010, 38 million mattresses and box springs were sold, and eventually they will join the other millions of mattresses and box springs that are sent to landfills every year. Mattresses make terrible landfill material because they are low density yet take up a lot of space (they can’t really be compressed), and their springs tend to disable landfill and transfer station equipment. Illegal dumping, too, contributes to the environmental and financial tolls that municipalities must address.
Unfortunately, there are currently few facilities that recycle mattresses — but that may change over the next few years. In 2013, Connecticut, California, and Rhode Island were the first states to pass mattress recycling laws. Other states will surely follow, given the staggering environmental costs of current mattress disposal options. Connecticut’s mattress recycling law requires mattress manufacturers to establish and manage a recycling program, which will likely be implemented in early 2015. Consumers will pay a fee when they buy a new mattress, and that fee will fund the transportation and recycling of old mattresses. Rhode Island’s and California’s recycling programs will probably be similar, but will not see implementation until mid-2015 and 2016, respectively.
Until mattress recycling laws become widespread, you have a few options to greenly dispose of your old mattress. First, you can check if you are near one of the facilities listed in the International Sleep Products Association directory of 40 or so mattress recyclers. If you aren’t, and the mattress is in good, clean shape, you might be able to give it away to a thrift store or on Freecycle.org. However, due to hygiene concerns and especially after the headline-grabbing bedbug outbreak in 2010, many thrift stores do not accept used mattresses. Always contact whoever you’re trying to give the mattress to ahead of time to make sure they will accept it.
Additionally, many states have regulations on giving away or selling mattresses, so do some research before you try those options. If you end up having to send your mattress to the landfill, consult local regulations first because there are often rules for that, too.