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Mattress Disposal and Recycling
Getting rid of an old mattress isn’t as simple as just throwing it in the bin. They’re big, bulky, and made from various materials – which makes mattress recycling a challenge too. However, recycling a mattress is possible and the best way to dispose of your old one to reduce both the costs and your carbon footprint.
Whether you need to arrange mattress disposal for your business (such as running a hotel or care home) or for the one in your bedroom at home, it’s important you do so safely and in an environmentally friendly way. Discover where to recycle a mattress and how to dispose of your old mattress in this guide.
Who invented the mattress?
The earliest form of mattress was first invented approximately 77,000 years ago in Sibudu, South Africa. Found more recently by archaeologists, it was comprised of earthly materials such as grass and leaves. However, in more modern history the first innerspring mattress was created in 1871 by the German inventor Heinrich Westphal.
What are mattresses made from? And how are mattresses made?
Mattresses are made up of three sections. Each of these can be made from different materials such as:
- Support layer – normally made from metal springs or/and foam (polyurethane, latex, or viscoelastic in most cases).
- Comfort layer – the first few inches of the mattress, normally made from memory foam, latex foam, gel foam, cotton, wool, or silk, depending on the mattress type.
- Cover – often made from a soft touch fabric or woven material.
There are many different ways you can make a mattress. For example, you can use a fastened or quilted sheet and fill it with cotton, foam rubber, straw, hair, air, or water.
Can you recycle a mattress?
Yes, you can recycle a mattress. Most of the materials used to make a mattress are recyclable, so it’s simply a case of specialists removing these to recycle in their separate waste streams. Mattress recycling is much better for the environment as they otherwise take up lots of space in landfill.
How do you dispose of an old mattress?
You can dispose of your old mattress in a few ways:
- Get it collected by the company delivering your new mattress (if they offer this service).
- Arrange collection by your local council (often they charge for this service).
- Take your old mattress to the tip or a nearby recycling centre that accepts mattresses.
- Sell your old mattress online or donate it to a charity shop nearby.
- Organise collection by a specialist waste management company – such as Business Waste.
You should never dispose of a mattress in a skip or cut it up and put it in a household bin, as this can be environmentally damaging.
Can you take a mattress to the recycling centre?
It depends on your local recycling centre, so you should always check first by calling ahead or looking online. Some recycling centres accept old mattresses and will send them for recycling by specialists. In certain areas, recycling centres won’t accept an old mattress though, and will instead direct you towards the council’s bulky waste collection service.
How is a mattress recycled?
When you recycle a mattress, it’s broken down into its recyclable components. First, the top layer (or cover) is cut and taken off, separating from the interior. The interior materials are removed and separated by type. Any soft materials such as foam are compressed and baled to save space when transported to another recycling centre or factory for reuse.
Recycling a mattress means other components are also reused. Any metal springs are melted down so they can be remade into new parts, while synthetic materials that are used to create the mattress are stripped and can either be recycled into new carpet underlay, or be sent to an energy plant.
What are the problems with mattress waste?
Recycling an old mattress is possible, but problems arise with improper disposal. Mattress waste can harm the environment if it ends up in landfill. This is because some of the materials they’re made from – such as plastics, foams, and synthetics – can take centuries to decompose.
When they decompose, if mixed with certain types of rubbish, chemical and anaerobic reactions can take place and emit dangerous greenhouse gases. Old mattresses can also damage the environment as dyes, flame retardant chemicals, and fungicides can seep into the ground.
As such large items, they take up a lot of landfill space too, which recycling a mattress in the UK can avoid.
What are alternatives to new mattresses?
There are lots of alternatives to purchasing a brand-new mattress. You could buy one second-hand, which can help the environment and cut down on costs – as brand-new mattresses can be rather expensive. You can do this online or in various charity shops.
What are some facts about mattress waste?
A few facts about mattress waste are that:
- In the UK, around 7.5 million mattresses that we throw away each year end up in landfill.
- Between 15 and 20 million new mattresses are bought in the UK every year.
- Only an estimated 19% of mattresses are recycled in the UK.
Where can you recycle or dispose of a mattress for free?
In many places, you can recycle a mattress for free at your nearest recycling centre. If they refuse to take it, you could contact your council and arrange collection as bulky waste (but check they recycle the mattress and don’t throw it in landfill). Some offer this service for free, but others charge a small fee.
Another alternative that’s free is to donate your old mattress to charity or offer it for nothing online.
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