By now, we’re all well aware that when we send our old stuff off to the landfill, it doesn’t just disappear. Mattresses are certainly no exception! According to Gary James of the Bed Times, about 20 million mattresses are hauled away from American homes each year, which averages out to about 50,000 each day.
If you want a mental image, think about it like this: stretched end-to-end, all the mattresses we throw away each day would stretch to about 55.5 miles. In one year, you could create a mattress train stretching 20,257.5 miles long. Insanity!
If the sheer quantity of mattresses going into landfills isn’t enough to make you want to find a way to recycle yours, maybe these fast facts will.
That’s the big question. The reality is that recycling your mattress is no easy task. Traditional mattresses — which tend to measure about 23 cubic feet — are kind of tightly-crafted and made of steel, wood, cotton, and polyurethane foam. Because of the range of materials they contain as well as their construction, mattresses actually need to be broken apart one-by one in order to be recycled so that each of the components can be harvested for re-use.
Although the materials found in mattresses can often be reused or resold after being harvested, mattress recyclers run into a range of challenges during the process, starting with collection and storage, which is an issue of manpower and space. In the next phase, mattress disassembly needs to be done by hand and with protective gear if the mattresses contain toxic synthetic materials or are contaminated. And finally, once the components have been disassembled, the organization needs to do the time-consuming legwork to locate buyers for all of the materials.
The good news is that while mattress recycling is still far from commonplace in the United States, there are a host of nonprofits, organizations, and projects springing up around the country with the aim of saving your mattress from the landfill. In Duluth, MN, Goodwill Industries has recycled over 120,000 mattresses since 2004. In Lane County, OR, the local chapter of the St. Vincent de Paul Society initiated a project called the DR3 Program (stand for Divert, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle), recycling roughly 300 mattresses per week since the project began. In Nashville, a group of Belmont University students and a local nonprofit teamed up to form their own recycling business, Spring Back Recycling, which now has five full-time employees and recycles about 500 mattresses per week.
In addition to the above, there are plenty of programs we haven’t mentioned. In fact, NBCNews says there are as many as 56 recycling facilities across the country. Mattress recycling is on the rise — it’s even become law in California, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. But even as the possibilities grow — which is exciting — that still leaves much of the country with no options.
Plain and simple: tossing our mattresses in the landfill hurts the environment and creates more problems for us to deal with down the road. But if that’s not enough to convince you, keep in mind that not recycling our mattresses is costing everyone more money. “When local governments have to spend more money to deal with mattresses than other types of garbage,” writes Krisopher Lee in a 2007 article for the Seattle Times, “We all pay for those extra costs.”
In addition to being vocal about supporting mattress recycling efforts, the most important thing you can do is be conscious about the materials you’re purchasing. Try finding an organic mattress, free from synthetic materials that can be harmful to the environment. And most importantly, try to extend the life of your mattress — buy quality and care for it well to make it last.
In addition to our 100% certified organic mattress and shikibuton collections, Soaring Heart also offers revitalization services, which can significantly extend the life of your Soaring Heart mattress.
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Quarantined? Sheltered in Place? Home with the kids and looking for things to do? Here's a couple quick tips to help everyone sleep better - starting tonight:
1) Air your bedding. When cherry trees blossom its a great reminder to hang a temporary clothes line and air your winter bedding.
2) Do a thorough launder of your mattress pads, dust mite covers, pillow liners. Flip the mattress and catch up with those dust bunnies hiding under the bed.
3) Check your labels! C'mon - how long have you really had those bed pillows?
We green consumers may be a small portion of the economy - but we are growing and we can appreciate how nuts the rest of the economy can be. Our kids can teach us not to use plastic straws, or to avoid one use plastics at the grocery store - but who teaches us not to purchase a 300 lb plastic mattress? (How many thousands of recycled straws would that be?!)
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