Home Publisher's Point of View It’s Time to Get a Grip on Lodging’s Mammoth Mattress Problem

It’s Time to Get a Grip on Lodging’s Mammoth Mattress Problem


Twenty-three cubic feet of space. That is how much room an average mattress occupies after it has been discarded in a landfill. As described in an article now appearing on Green Lodging News, the U.S. lodging industry has about a 636-mile-high pile of mattresses in use and waiting to be discarded. That is one impressive mountain of foam, wood and steel. Where do you send your mattresses once they are no longer suitable for guests? If it is a destination other than a landfill, please let me know. I would like to share that information with my readers.

I suspect, however, that the majority of mattresses do end up in landfills. Some may get donated to charities but would you accept an old mattress with who knows what on it if you were working for a charity? As one mattress vendor explained, charities are not taking them for reasons having to do with liability and hygiene. To be honest, I don’t blame them at all. So what is the solution?

It is time for the lodging industry to treat mattresses like it has begun to treat other disposable items in a hotel: as a sustainable product to be purchased with recycling and re-use in mind. How can the lodging industry help make this happen? By purchasing modular mattresses with replaceable parts so that entire systems are not thrown away, and by pressuring mattress manufacturers to establish recycling and take back programs.

Replaceable Tops & Pads

As reported here on Green Lodging News, vendors such as Simmons Hospitality Group, Sterling Sleep Hospitality and MyBed Inc. now offer mattress systems with replaceable tops and pads. These types of mattresses can dramatically slow the flow of waste to landfills. It just does not make sense to throw away a strong mattress support system when the top of the mattress goes bad.

The next time you chat with a mattress sales representative, rattle the person by asking about recycling. If you operate a small inn and typically buy a few mattresses at a time, the vendor may not listen but if you represent a large hotel company and order hundreds or thousands of mattresses in bulk, I am pretty confident the sales person will pay attention.

Few communities throughout the United States offer mattress recycling. That is even more reason for mattress manufacturers to play a role in solving this problem. Increasingly, consumers are depending on businesses to address waste stream issues that they “own.” Mattresses can be recycled; the foam, for example, is in demand for carpet underlay use.

Until the lodging industry changes its way of thinking about sleep systems, mattresses will continue to clog our landfills by the millions. It is enough to give an environmentalist insomnia.

Odds & Ends

• Thank you to Laura Bly at USA Today for including Green Lodging News in her July 13 article on green hotels.

• I have added a State Green Lodging Programs page to my website. It can be accessed by clicking here, or by clicking through the link toward the top of the Green Associations page that is found on the left side of the website. If I have missed a program, please let me know. I will gladly add it.

• Finally, the International Hotel/Motel & Restaurant Show has added a green award to each of the five categories in its Editors’ Choice competition. The five categories include décor, essentials, luxury, restaurant and technology. Click here to read the entire article and be sure to enter if you are a vendor and have a product in one of the five categories.

As always, I can be reached at editor@greenlodgingnews.com.