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Reuse Rather Than Dispose:

 

Keeping Mattresses Out of Landfills

Millions of mattresses end up in landfills every year. They clog machinery, don’t compact well, and create soft spots in landfills. You can keep your mattress out of a landfill by donating, recycling, and making smart purchases when it’s time for a new one.

Donation

The simplest solution is to donate your old mattress to charity. Many national charities and some local second-hand stores accept mattress donations. Homeless shelters and women’s/family shelters are other good places to check before heading to a landfill.

However, the mattress must be free of bugs, stains, or tears. In areas where bed bug outbreaks are frequent, charities may not accept any mattress donations. Call ahead to make sure you won’t be turned away upon arrival. Some charity organizations offer pickup services for free or a small fee.

Recycle

Pound for pound, 80 to 90 percent of most mattresses can be recycled or repurposed. Materials that can be reused include:

  • Steel: Innerspring mattresses may contain as much as 25 pounds of recyclable steel. After the springs have been removed, they can be melted down to make auto parts, roofing, and other construction materials.

  • Wood: Mattresses may not contain wood, but the box springs that often accompany them do. Wood can be chipped or mulched to be used in a garden or pulped to make paper.

  • Foam: High-density foam can be shredded and reused to make carpet padding, gym equipment, and foam for car seats.

  • Cloth and Fiber: Mattress covers can be removed, shredded, used to make yarn for other textiles or, in the case of synthetic fibers, melted down to make shower curtains or clothing.

The difficulty in mattress recycling lies in deconstructing the mattress. You can take it apart yourself and transport the materials to various recycling facilities or drop it off at the closest mattress recycling facility, Re-Matt, in Calgary.

Buy Smart, Go Green

Another way to keep mattresses out of landfills is to buy an eco-friendly one when it’s time for a new model. Eco-friendly mattresses may have:

  • Natural Latex: Natural latex mattresses are made from the sap of a rubber tree, a renewable resource. While these mattresses may still contain up to 5 percent synthetic materials, they are usually more eco-friendly and less likely to contain harmful chemicals or give off dangerous emissions.

  • Organic Mattress Covers: Organically certified cotton and wool in the mattress cover reduces exposure to pesticides or chemicals from the growth and harvesting the materials.

  • Fire Socks: Fire socks are used as a flame retardant rather than chemical flame retardants, which can be harmful to human health. Fire socks made of wool, cotton, thistle, and Kevlar are all eco-friendly options.

  • Plant-Based Foams: Plant-based foams are made using fewer chemicals. However, the amount of plant-based oils used in manufacturing can vary.

While natural latex mattresses are the most eco-friendly option on the market, they can be pricey. Hybrids that incorporate latex into the design can provide a balance between safety, sustainability, comfort, and price. No matter what kind of mattress you choose, check the materials list carefully to be sure you know what you’re getting.


Amy Highland is a sleep expert at SleepHelp.org. She loves taking naps during thunderstorms and cuddling up with a blanket, book, and cats.

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