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Recycling goes beyond beverage containers - Mattress Recycling!

When it comes time to get a new mattress you are faced with not only the dilemma of choosing your new mattress, but also the question of how to dispose of your current one. In Canada, approximately 6 million mattresses are landfilled each year, and that is a LOT of waste!

The issue with landfilling mattresses

Mattresses are large items that take up a lot of space in landfills. While other garbage is compacted, the way mattresses are formed makes them extremely difficult to compress and may even damage the equipment.

They also take decades to decompose within a landfill. And to make things worse, when mattresses finally do begin to decompose, they release toxic chemicals into the environment, effectively causing land and water pollution. With the number of mattresses being replaced throughout one’s lifetime, we are able to see how the accumulation of mattresses in landfills is a serious issue that needs to be addressed.

What to do instead?

Well, reuse of a serviceable and clean mattress should always be the first option, and handing it down to a family member, friend or charitable organization is a good first option. Organizations like local shelters, Habitat for Humanity, and The Salvation Army may take mattresses in good used condition.

However, broken, stained and well worn mattresses are a different story. Did you know that you can recycle your mattress instead of sending it to the landfill? Although in most areas, mattresses can’t be picked up with your regular recycling, specialized recycling facilities exist that deconstruct your old mattress and reuse it for parts!

Image retrieved from Mother Earth Recycling

Depending on the type of mattress being recycled, the materials/parts that can be reused include:

  • Foam: the foam which makes up the middle part of your mattress can be used for padding in other products such as carpets, used in mats, as well as upholstery stuffing.
  • Metal: the steel springs located throughout your mattress can be melted down to be reused in items such as tools and auto parts.
  • Fabric: fabrics used on the exterior of your mattress can be stripped and made into other textiles.
  • Wood: the wood from a box spring can be made into wood chips or a variety of other wood products.

How to recycle a mattress

There are a couple of different ways your mattress may be recycled. You may want to check with the company/retailer you bought your mattress from to see if they have a take-back or recycling program. For example, Sleep Country stores across Canada will donate mattresses in good condition to charities or recycle it.

If there are no take-back programs available through your retailer, you will want to search for a recycling facility in your area that accepts mattresses. These facilities may be municipal programs or a privateā€Ærecyclerā€Æorā€Æretailer. A quick google search should provide you with a list of facilities near you. While some of these facilities may offer pick-up, you might also be in charge of hauling and dropping off your used mattress yourself.

If you are located in the United States, check out Bye Bye Mattress or the Earth 911 Recycling Locator to see a list of mattress recyclers in your state. Across the B.C. Lower Mainland, Canadian Mattress Recycling will pick up mattresses, box springs, and headboards to be recycled.

Mother Earth Recycling

Mother Earth Recycling is a great example of a recycling facility that goes above and beyond to make a positive change in the world. While doing good for the environment, mattress recycling facilities can make positive social contributions as well.

Mother Earth Recycling is a Winnipeg-based Indigenous owned social enterprise which is also the city’s only mattress recycling facility. It was founded in 2012 as a partnership between Neegian Centre, the Centre for Aboriginal Human Resource Development, and the Aboriginal Council of Winnipeg. The purpose of this recycling centre was to provide community members with training and job opportunities while protecting the environment and providing a much-needed service to the city of Winnipeg.

Mattresses dropped off at this facility are separated by skilled workers into fabric, foam, metal and wood, which are then sent to secondary markets where they are reused. Approximately 95% of the mattress components are recycled.

Image retrieved from Mother Earth Recycling

It is important to keep an eye out for social enterprises and businesses like Mother Earth Recycling which take into account multiple aspects of sustainability. That way you are reducing your environmental impact while making important social change as well.

Keep your mattress out of the landfill!

Here’s how:

  • Care for your mattress by flipping and rotating it regularly, use a mattress protector, and washing linens regularly.
  • Donate to someone who can use it, extending the lifespan of the mattress. If it is a family member or friend, tell them how they can recycle the mattress when they are finished with it - maybe you will even help them do so.
  • Recycle the mattress with a local recycling facility. The BONUS is that some of these organizations, like Mother Earth Recycling are also social enterprises that through their work create skilled employment as they benefit the planet!
  • Shop with the end in mind. Finally, as you consider the purchase of a new mattress, consider the environmental and social impacts of that new mattress. Can you do environmental and social good with the purchase?

For Eco-friendly mattress purchases, look for companies certified through Cradle to Cradle, the Green Business Bureau or B-Corp.

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