Make Your Used Mattresses Matter

old mattress dumped

By Pierre Angela Cruz

Concerns about environmental protection (and destruction) have prompted more and more businesses and individuals to join the green bandwagon. But while millions of Americans are recycling soda cans and kitchen items, about the same number of them discard mattresses. We have yet to implement a successful system when it comes to reusing and recycling our mattresses.

A case for recycling

Landfills are already overflowing, and discarded mattresses occupy a lot of space. Apart from taking up a huge amount of room, it also poses landfill problems. Most of mattress materials are non-biodegradable. Their heavy-duty steel frames can damage equipment. Also, chemicals from some mattress materials may leach out and pose environmental hazards.

That said, recycling mattresses using current methods is uneconomical. They are made up of a wide range of materials, such as steel, cotton, wood, and polyurethane foams, that make the recycling costly. Frequently, the cost of tearing down and preparing different kinds of raw materials is believed to exceed the value of the recycled material. Shipping used mattresses is also a huge expense. Meanwhile, reusing mattresses poses health problems as they can be home to insects and pests such as ticks and bedbugs.

Organizations respond

Yet despite facing these challenges, there are still organizations that aim to spearhead a successful recycling plan for mattresses. The St. Vincent de Paul Society, a charitable group that provides feeding and housing programs for the poor, is acknowledged as one of the leaders in mattress recycling promotion. The society’s California and Oregon chapters recycle more than 120,000 mattresses and boxsprings yearly. Its Lane County, Oregon, chapter has organized one of America’s most successful mattress recycling programs, called DR3 (Divert, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle). So far, this initiative is able to pay for half of the chapter’s $24 million budget.

Another company that’s responding to the challenges is Midwest Mattress Recovery in Watertown, Wisconsin. Since the company’s establishment in March 2013, its owner, Bob Mulder, targets to deliver 50,000 to 75,000 pieces every year.

Recycling your used mattress

Nonprofits and businesses have already begun to respond to the call for recycling mattresses. It’s now time for individuals to participate in this movement.

Mattresses are highly reuseable. Many people throw them to landfills even without any sign of damage. Knowing the potential dangers that its materials can bring to the environment, we can contribute even in our little way to reuse or recycle them. Here are the steps:

Prepare mattresses for reuse. Mattresses may be home to microbes and insects. It will be a significant help for their new users and recycling companies if you clean them thoroughly before doing your environment-friendly act. One way of cleansing it is to sprinkle a cup of baking soda directly onto your mattress. Who knows, you may decide not to replace your used beds that have served you and your family for years.

Donate. Donating your mattresses is an excellent option. Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn have groups that cater to recycling initiatives. You may also contact charitable institutions like St. Vincent de Paul Society. Your act of charity would be very much welcomed by these groups.

Resell. You can profit from your used mattresses by including them on your own garage sale. You may even spearhead a community sale of used mattresses. Just make sure you’ve cleaned them before selling them.

Re-purpose your mattress. If you are into art and DIY projects, why not make use of the materials of your used bed? You may use the foams and cotton for a stuffed toy or springs as circular light fixtures. The possibilities are endless.

Recycle. Instead of just throwing your mattresses away, call any recycling company to pick it up. These companies will disassemble your bed and find out what they can get out of it. Just be ready to pay a small fee for wrecking your mattress. Though recycling your bed costs a little, you will be doing your environment a huge favor.

Improper disposal of used beds and mattresses is hazardous to Mother Earth. But recycling or reusing them for creative uses may not only help save our environment, but it may also unleash our creative, entrepreneurial and philanthropic selves

Image Credit: Flickr/Alan Stanton

Pierre Angela Cruz is a marketing specialist for Bedding Stock, an online mattress store in Stuart Florida. She is a foodie and dog lover. Follow her on twitter @cruisepyer.

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