by guest writer Shannon Walsh
Millions of mattresses make their way to landfills around the country. They’re large, bulky, and difficult to crush, which means they take up more than their fair share of space. Most people don’t realize their options when it comes to disposing of and purchasing a mattress. It comes down to recycling old mattresses and making smart purchasing decisions when it’s time for a new one.
Getting the mattress to the recycling facility is often the hardest part. But once there, almost all of the components can be broken down and reused. Depending on the mattress type, you may be able to recycle the:
Steel: Innerspring mattresses have as much as 25 pounds of steel coils. Once removed, the steel can be melted down at a steel recycling facility and used to make something new.
Wood: Mattresses don’t usually have wood, but the foundations do. The wood can be chipped, mulched, and pulped to be used for paper and other products.
Polyurethane Foam: Foam can be shredded and compressed for any number of uses including carpet padding, car seats, and gym equipment.
Fabric and Fibers: Any number of natural and synthetic fabrics and fibers are used to cover the exterior of mattresses. These fabrics and fibers can be shredded to be respun or melted down to make new textiles.
Beaverton has a recycling facility that accepts mattresses. You can schedule for pickup, though there is a small fee that you’ll be able to take care of before pickup. The online scheduling lets you take care of the details from the comfort of home.
Buy Smart, Know Your Options
Finding an environmentally-friendly mattress might be more difficult than you think. Labels like “green”, “organic”, and “all-natural” usually apply to only one portion or component of the mattress. It’s more important to know what materials the mattress is made of and how the materials have been manufactured.
Look for materials like:
Plant-based polyfoam and memory foam
Cotton, wool, and other natural fibers
Fire socks made of wool, cotton, thistle, and Kevlar (Kevlar isn’t a natural material but it’s not chemically treated making it a safe choice.)
Of your basic mattress options—innerspring, foam, hybrid, latex—natural latex offers the most environmentally friendly and biodegradable option. Natural latex is made from the sap of the rubber tree so it’s sustainable and all natural. It then goes through either a Dunlop or Talalay manufacturing process.
Dunlop latex produces a firm, dense mattress that can be made of 95 percent natural, organic materials. The Talalay process produces a lighter, softer mattress but they often include more synthetic components. Even Dunlop latex mattresses include some synthetic latex made from petrochemicals. In fact, all latex mattresses have some synthetic components. Scientists continue to work towards developing a mattress that’s 100 percent biodegradable, but we’re not quite there yet.
Latex mattresses often come with a high price tag. If a natural latex mattress just doesn’t fit into your budget, there are latex hybrid options that include innersprings or plant-based foams to cut down on the amount of latex and reduce the price. While the biodegradability may go down, you’ll still be choosing a mattress made from sustainable materials, a significant portion of which are biodegradable. As long as you recycle appropriately, there’s no reason your mattress needs to end up in the landfill.