How And Where To Recycle An Old Mattress.

June 14, 2009

Dear EarthTalk: How can I recycle my old mattress if the place I buy a new one from doesn’t take it? What do mattress companies do with old mattresses when they do take them? Do they recycle any of the material?

A typical mattress is a 23 cubic foot assembly of steel, wood, cotton and polyurethane foam. Given this wide range of materials, mattresses have typically been difficult to recycle – and still most municipal recycling facilities won’t offer to do it for you. But along with increasing public concerns about the environment – and a greater desire to recycle everything we can – has come a handful of private companies and nonprofit groups that want to make sure your old bed doesn’t end up in a landfill.

The Lane County, Oregon chapter of the charity St. Vincent de Paul Society, for example, has spearheaded one of the nation’s most successful mattress recycling initiatives via its DR3 (Divert, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle program. “Keeping [mattresses] out of landfills is a matter of efficiently recycling them so their core materials can be reincarnated into any number of new products,” reports the group, which opened a large mattress recycling center in Oakland, California in 2001. (Why hundreds of miles away in Oakland? To “go where the mattresses are,” says Chance Fitzpatrick of the group.) The facility has been processing upwards of 300 mattresses and box springs per week ever since.

During the recycling process, each mattress or box spring is pushed onto a conveyor belt, where specially designed saws cut away soft materials on the top and bottom, separating the polyurethane foam and cotton fiber from the framework. The metal pieces are magnetically removed, and the remaining fiber materials are then shredded and baled. The whole process takes one worker just three to four minutes per mattress.

On a slow day, the DR3 facility recycles some 1,500 pounds of polyurethane foam, which totals a half million or more pounds over the course of a year. “A well-oiled recycling factory can reuse 90 percent of the mattress”, reports Josh Peterson of Discovery’s Planet Green website. “The cotton and cloth get turned into clothes. The springs and the foam get recycled, and the wood gets turned into chips.”

While the DR3 facility only takes mattresses from a small group of waste haulers and individuals around the San Francisco Bay Area, other mattress recyclers are popping up around the U.S. and beyond. Some examples include Nine Lives Mattress Recycling in Pamplico, South Carolina; Conigliaro Industries in Framingham, Massachusetts; MattCanada in Montreal, Québec; and Dreamsafe in Moorabbin, Australia. To find a mattress recycler near you, consult the free online database at Earth911.org.

Those who aren’t near a recycling facility might consider giving their old mattress away. But many health departments prohibit donating mattresses to charities like the Salvation Army or Goodwill. So what’s an upgraded sleeper with a perfectly good old mattress to do? The web-based Freecycle Network allows people to post stuff to give away to anyone willing to come pick it up; likewise, chances are your local version of Craigslist also has a “free” section where you can post that it as available.

CONTACTS: DR3 Mattress Recycling, ; Nine Lives Mattress Recycling; Conigliaro Industries; MattCanada; Dreamsafe; Freecycle Network.

GOT AN ENVIRONMENTAL QUESTION? Send it to: EarthTalk, c/o E/The Environmental Magazine, P.O. Box 5098, Westport, CT 06881 USA; submit it at EarthTalk; or e-mail us. Read past columns at our archives.

Green PolkaDot Box
Filed in: Recycling • Tags: ,

About the Author:

After a varied past of being a test driver for automotive television programs, a Hollywood studio lackey, and an online media sales director, David is now the publisher and editor of The Good Human. In his spare time he rides motorcycles, drinks good beer, and builds stuff in the garage. You can follow him on Twitter at @thegoodhuman or G+ at Google
Like this post? If so, please consider subscribing to my full feed RSS. Or, if you would prefer, you can subscribe by Email:

Enter your email address in the box below. Address will only be used to deliver a daily email and you can unsubscribe at any time.

Comments (3)

  1. brian says:

    I just gave away an old bed/mattress set this last week on Craigslist. I posted an ad for a free bed and got back about 25 replies in about 12 hours. Someone came by and picked it up the next day. It was great because I couldn’t use it anymore, they got a free bed, and I didn’t have to haul it away. Wins all around.

  2. Allie says:

    When we got our new mattress, we paid a little extra (30 bucks) for the mattress company to haul it away for recycling. I guess if they are in good shape they can be donated and if not, they are stripped and recycled. I feel like it was worth it. No hassle and it goes to a good place instead of in the trash.

  3. Marjorie S says:

    My husband and I found out about mattress recycling when our neighbor was having their old bed taken away.

    “There’s a BedBusters truck parked in front of our house, did you call these people?”

    We ended up recycling our sagging guest room mattress. I had no idea such a service even existed. Go green!