Old mattresses create a landfill nightmare

That's why California is mulling a recycling tax and why organizations such as Hilton and the US Navy are looking for cost-efficient ways to deal with them.

By Bruce Kennedy Apr 1, 2013 9:50AM

Image: Couple shopping for beds © Tanya Constantine, Blend Images, Getty ImagesWould you be willing to pay an extra $25 or so to make sure the mattress you just bought doesn't eventually clog up some landfill site?


Lawmakers in California are considering a measure that would add a recycling fee to each new mattress sold in the state. The idea "is to require the industry to reclaim the springs, wood and fiber from millions of old mattresses that plug landfills and clutter Southern California streets every year," according to the Los Angeles Times


So far, the industry isn't fond of the proposal, saying recycling should be an issue for manufacturers and not the government. But some signs indicate the idea of recycling mattresses is catching on as organizations look for ways to cut costs and solid waste.


Mattresses are a growth industry. The International Sleep Products Association's "Bedding Barometer" reports wholesale mattress sales in the U.S. were up 11.7% last year, compared to 2011, while year-to-date unit shipments increased by 7.6%.


IBISWorld says the mattress industry had $7 billion in revenues last year, thanks in part to increased demand. And according to that report, "the mattress production process has become leaner and quicker, which will improve profit margins and make U.S.-made mattresses more attractive to foreign buyers due to their speedy delivery times."


And a good mattress isn't cheap, costing anywhere from several hundred dollars up into the tens of thousands. Or you could really splurge and buy the $175,000 mattress recently offered by a British company.


Industry giant Sealy (ZZ) says the average lifespan of a "quality" mattress is eight to 10 years -- but with millions sold each year, the issue of what to do with an old and uncomfortable mattress is an issue.


"Old mattresses also are nightmares for landfill operators," the L.A. Times notes, citing John Bell, director of green business solutions for nonprofit recycler Hope Services Monterey. "Each piece takes up 23 cubic feet, doesn't decompose, and 'floats to the top' of dumps because of its flexible construction." And old mattresses that are improperly discarded can become refuges for bedbugs and other vermin, creating public health problems.


While some nonprofit groups will take an old mattress off your hands and recycle its wood, foam and metal, other companies are making a go at commercial mattress recycling.


One such company, Nine Lives Mattress Recycling in South Carolina, charges $5 for each mattress and box spring it recycles. According to the company's website, in 2011 it recycled 17,000 units, saving around $1.4 million worth of landfill space (based on a landfill price of $10 per cubic yard).


Last year, one of the nation's largest consumers of mattresses, the U.S. Navy, began a pilot program with Nine Lives to recycle 13,000 mattress -- or, as GreenBiz.com reports, the equivalent of 100,000 cubic feet of space. And the program reportedly saves the Navy about $12,000 compared to simply trashing the mattresses.


Some corporations are also getting into the act. Last year Hilton Worldwide, owned by the Blackstone Group (BX), announced its own mattress recycling program -- which would break down about 85% of the mattresses and box springs the hotel chain discards.


"Our hotels have purchased more than 50,000 mattresses in the past two years in the U.S. alone," Hilton Worldwide Vice President Randy Gaines said at the time. "This program presents a great opportunity for our hotels globally, offers a cost savings to owners and underscores Hilton Worldwide’s commitment to further reduce our waste output."

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Apr 1, 2013 12:37PM
Problem is, who would get the $25 fee and what are they going to do with it.  We pay to recycle tires now but where do they go, in a tire landfill. So whats the point?  Make something useful out of this stuff. We dont need more damn fees. Only makes the government more money to blow.
Apr 1, 2013 12:42PM
It is just another tax.  It is stupid.  the most wasteful thing in our lives is government.  They will collect the money on one end and by the time they distribute it on the other side there won't be enough left to cover the costs.  Government should stay out of it and if there is a benefit to the recycling then the manufacturers will finance there need.  The won't be a garbage collection tax at point of disposal.  It will be a tax at point of sale.  Like everything else the government will take the money and run.
Apr 1, 2013 1:14PM
Recycle our government leaders to outer space as they are clogging up our lives.
Apr 1, 2013 1:05PM

Pay a fee when you buy a new mattress? Come on call it what it is! It is a tax! You take it to the recycler and pay a recycling fee then. And for Pete’s sake, do not let the government run the program! It would cost $150 per item to recycle.

Apr 1, 2013 1:21PM
I just took apart an old box spring instead of throwing it away...the wood inside is built in a lattice pattern and can be used in a multitude of ways....It could be covered and made into a gorgeous headboard..Im using mine in a garden as a Lattice trellis. the springs I cut in half and will also be using in the garden as vine supports. the covering will be used to cover tender plants in the winter....and as a blanket for moving furniture etc....nothing to throw away here!
Apr 1, 2013 1:16PM

MORE TAXES, WE NEED MORE TAXES!!! That will solve the prolem.



Apr 1, 2013 1:06PM
why not take them to a crematorium and incinerate them to ashes?
Apr 1, 2013 12:51PM
Absolutely if the fee went to help the small business owner who is doing the recycling build his business to do it correctly.  Under those circumstances I'm totally behind it. 
Apr 1, 2013 10:08AM
The industry has been externalizing the cost of disposal. Of course they wouldn't be fond of it. If landfills charged enough of a premium for disposing of mattresses, I'm sure a solution to the problem would be found in no time.
Apr 1, 2013 12:51PM
Something needs to be done.........the idiots out here in AZ just dump them in the desert and expect someone else to clean their mess!   
Apr 1, 2013 1:41PM

By the time California gets done added this and that Tax you will take home $10.00 from your paycheck.


You like Democrats they take and take and take. It will never end with them..

Apr 1, 2013 1:09PM

Are they crazy??? Then bed bugs would really be an epidemic for the government to handle. Im sure eventually by cutting corners in the proper disinfectant and recycling. I hope their required to put on those permanant tags. "oh no- bew bew"-(in my nicki voice) I know there are other options. keep the metal burn every thing else- problem solved lol jk....

Apr 1, 2013 1:18PM
Constructing more durable mattresses (20 year life rather than 8-10) would halve the problem, but then manufacturers would lose sales; so there's negative motivation for improved durability. The visco-elastic and air chamber mattresses will easily last 20 years and are more supportive and comfortable too.
Apr 1, 2013 12:34PM
In New York they have people who pick up discarded mattresses and they are taken to sweatshops where fancy new covers are sewn over the old bed bug infected ones and then they are sold at swap meets. 
Apr 1, 2013 1:20PM
Good for Hilton.  And the Navy. You are next in line America !!
Apr 1, 2013 1:34PM
$25 or more for each mattress when there is a co in N. Carolina that does this for $5 means that this is a tax thing and not a recycling issue.  Calif will suck it's residents dry until they revolt.
Apr 1, 2013 12:55PM
I think it's a great idea. Like it or not, we cannot continue throwing our trash all over the planet.
Apr 1, 2013 12:48PM
I KNOW my mattress won't EVER get re-used by a sweat shop. I'm "working" ... "hard".... wink... wink... making sure the springs will be totally dead and to get the MAX use of it now... wink.... wink....
Apr 1, 2013 1:52PM
Broke dick state spends all of the working stiffs taxes supporting free loading, useless, lazy maggots along with illegal aliens then comes back for more in the form of fees. Deserves to fall into the ocean.
Apr 1, 2013 1:06PM
I have seen many pick-up trucks overloaded with old mattresses headed to mexico, hummm?  Maybe these guys are actually recycling?

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