Every day, U.S. residents, businesses, and universities discard more than 50,000 mattresses. If they were stacked up, the pile would be almost 1.5 times the height of Mount Everest! Less than 5% of these mattresses are recycled, even though 90% of their components can be used to make steel products, carpet padding, animal bedding, and mulch. Refurbishing and recycling unwanted mattresses, rather than landfilling them, also creates recycling jobs and reduces greenhouse gas emissions and energy use.
There is currently no convenient way for most people to recycle their old mattresses. So, most end up in landfills or energy recovery facilities, where their bulk and relative flexibility make them difficult to handle. In the worst case scenario, mattresses are illegally dumped in the environment. As a result, mattresses are expensive for local governments (and therefore taxpayers) to manage.
Extended producer responsibility (EPR) laws for mattresses require companies to set up and operate recycling programs that make it easy for consumers to recycle old mattresses, and relieve governments from the burden of managing this bulky waste. In Connecticut, municipalities saved nearly $1.5 million in mattress disposal costs in one year as a result of their mattress EPR program. EPR laws also provide a continuous flow of high quality material, encouraging long-term investments in local refurbishing, recycling, and remanufacturing facilities, creating local jobs and economic value.
In California, Connecticut, and Rhode Island, consumers pay a small “eco fee” when they purchase a new mattress. An industry-run nonprofit, the Mattress Recycling Council, uses this funding to collect, refurbish, and recycle old mattresses. Since the first program began operating in 2015, the three state programs have recycled more than three million mattresses and diverted more than 136 million pounds of material from landfills. In just the first year of program operations, the mattress recycling rate in Connecticut rose from 8.7% to 63.5%, and in California more than 23,700 illegally dumped mattresses were collected in 29 counties. Together, these three states recycled more than 24,000 tons of steel, foam, cotton, wood, and other materials from mattresses in the last rear alone.
- The Mattress Recycling Council is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the development and implementation of statewide mattress recycling programs for states that have enacted laws.
- Find a recycling collection site near you, from Bye Bye Mattress.
- The Product Stewardship Institute has led the way across the U.S. in support of EPR laws for mattresses. Visit their Mattress Product Page for model bill language, best practices & technical assistance for mattress EPR laws.