Home News & Features Biggest Barrier to Mattress Recycling: Not Knowing It Can Be Done

Biggest Barrier to Mattress Recycling: Not Knowing It Can Be Done


NATIONAL REPORT—In recent years, mattress makers have taken steps to extend the life of the mattress—building in removable pillow tops and other replaceable components—but at the end of a mattress’ life there is still a great chance that it will end up in a local landfill. The biggest barrier to mattress (and box spring) recycling, according to Chuck Brickman, owner and president of Willoughby, Ohio-based Ohio Mattress Recovery and Recycling, is hoteliers not knowing there is an option to recycle. Another barrier, although this is slowly beginning to change, is the availability of mattress recycling facilities. The International Sleep Products Assn. (ISPA), in the Sustainability section of its website, lists just 23 organizations in the United States that recycle mattresses and just five in Canada.

“There are only two or three companies in the entire United States that will pick them up,” says Brickman, whose expanding company now services hotels and resorts throughout the country.

Brickman says his company can recycle a mattress at a cost less than that of sending it to a landfill ninety-five percent of the time. “There can be a significant cost savings,” he says. What impacts cost is mattress size, the number of mattresses, and the travel distance to and from a property to a deconstruction center. His company’s deconstruction facilities are in Pittsburgh, Chicago and Atlanta. By next year, Ohio Mattress Recovery and Recycling intends to expand west of the Mississippi.

Additional Recyclers

Also providing pick-up service throughout the United States is Nationwide Mattress Recycling, Framingham, Mass., South Carolina-based Nine Lives Mattress Recycling, and 1-800-GOT-JUNK? In the western United States, St. Vincent de Paul, with mattress drop-off locations in California and Oregon, claims to be the largest mattress recycler in North America. It does not offer a pick-up service. Click here for a list of mattress recyclers throughout the United States and Canada. Also click here.

Although the market for recyclables has taken a hit in recent years—Brickman says the price for recyclable steel (mattress springs) was once at $400 a ton but now is at $170—mattress recycling can be profitable. Cotton and shoddy (used in mattress padding) can be sold to textile recyclers, wood can be shredded and used as landscape mulch, and polyurethane foam can be reused as carpet padding.

Besides the cost savings and the redirection of material into production, mattress recycling can contribute to LEED and other certifications and have a significant, measurable, positive impact on the environment. According to Nationwide Mattress Recycling, close to 4.5 million mattresses and 4.5 million box springs are destined for the landfill or incinerator every year in the United States. That amounts to 250 million pounds of mattresses annually. Mattresses, once compacted and buried in a landfill, do not easily degrade. By recycling mattresses, one can help extend landfill life, reduce pollution associated with the extraction of virgin materials, spare resources for future use, and reduce the impact from the creation and transport of new product.

Recycling ‘Cost Prohibitive’ for One Mattress Company

Those in the lodging industry interested in recycling mattresses are dependent, at least for now, on recyclers such as those mentioned above, to handle mattress recycling. One representative of a mattress manufacturer told Green Lodging News that his company tested a mattress recycling program with a major hotel brand but found it to be cost prohibitive.

Ryan Trainer, president of ISPA, told Green Lodging News that his organization does not want to “take an ownership interest” in the mattress recycling issue. “We see ourselves as a clearinghouse for information,” he says. “We do whatever we can to get recyclers interested in the business.”

In addition to working on legislative issues that help ease the way for mattress recycling, Trainer says ISPA, as part of its ISPA Earth initiative, has launched a Facebook page and LinkedIn Group page for those interested in recycling used mattresses, sharing ideas, asking questions, and making new connections.

Glenn Hasek can be reached at editor@greenlodgingnews.com.