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Consider Mattress Recycling for ‘Tired’ Beds

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When many people think of hotels, they think of the big bed that will keep them comfortable while they’re on the road. But what happens when that bed wears out? The eco-minded consumer wants to know that their bed was disposed of in the most responsible manner possible. The good news for hoteliers is that mattress recycling locations are popping up all over the country. These companies take away old mattresses and box-springs and process them for safe, responsible recycling. Mattress recycling companies create jobs, help your company achieve green certification, and address a growing problem in the industry—bedbugs.

At an average of 23 cubic feet and 55 pounds, beds are among the largest items a hotel has to throw away. That also means they’re among the most expensive. Mattresses will never break down in a landfill and can actually cause safety problems for landfill and incinerator operators.  However, if a mattress is broken into its component parts, 80 to 90 percent is recyclable.

The process of deconstructing mattresses for recycling is a proven job creator at a time when our country is desperate for job growth. The Institute for Local Self-Reliance, a nonprofit research organization dedicated to environmentally sound economic development, estimates that recycling creates four to 10 times more jobs than landfilling.

Most Mattresses Can be Recycled

Some charities that reuse beds will want to pick and choose what they’ll take. That’s not the case with mattress recyclers, who will take beds regardless of their condition. Typically, the only exception is beds that are extremely soiled or dripping wet.

The Mustard Seed of Central Florida is one example of an organization that can reuse and recycle mattresses. The nonprofit based in Orlando takes donated furniture and gets it into the hands of needy families and people affected by hurricanes and other natural disasters. In 2009 they learned about mattress recycling and decided to throw their oar in the water. They’re now one of two mattress recyclers in Florida, handling hundreds of worn out beds every month.

There are many green certification programs available and the Green Lodging News website provides a comprehensive listing. Our review of several of the programs reveals that most programs reference mattresses in their waste disposal sections and do reward hotels for recycling or donating them. Each rating system works a little differently so they need to be studied to makes sure it fits with the goals of a particular business.

Additionally, 26 states now offer voluntary certification programs, and as you can imagine, they too are all a little different. We especially like the state of Connecticut’s Green Lodging Certification program which gives a hotel operator anywhere from 1 to 5 points based on how they are recycling mattresses. Selling to a renovator who picks through the good mattresses for resale and delivers the rest to a landfill may get a hotel one point. On the other hand, disposing of mattresses through a mattress recycling company that safely and responsibly recycles the product is rewarded the full 5 points.

Handling Infested Mattresses

Bed bugs are a known and growing problem in the hospitality industry. Dealing with infestations in rooms is one obvious problem. But some practices in the hotel industry related to the disposal of used mattresses may actually encourage the spread of bugs. To ensure infested beds are not allowed back on the market, use a reputable mattress recycling company. At facilities such as the Mustard Seed and Park City Green, a new facility opening in Bridgeport, Connecticut this fall, workers are trained to identify and effectively dispose of mattresses with signs of bed bug activity. Should any bugs slip through the screening process, the industrial process that takes the raw materials and turns them into valuable materials kills 100 percent of living organisms, putting an end to any chance of spreading bed bugs.

A comprehensive list of mattress recyclers is available by clicking here. Check it out the next time you’re ready to change out your beds. Selecting a mattress recycler means no one can accuse you of lying down on the job of making your hotel a greener place.

Sophia Bennett and Kevin O’Brien work for the St. Vincent de Paul Society of Lane County (www.svdp.us) in Eugene, Oregon. St. Vincent de Paul established the first commercially viable mattress recycling business, DR3 Recycling (www.mattressrecycling.us), and continues to operate the largest program in the United States.

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