Preserving natural resources often takes rethinking how products are disposed of and reused. A large household product like a mattress isn’t easy to get rid of. Beds are notorious for being challenging to compact in landfills. They’re difficult to transport and may clog machinery, which increases the cost of their disposal. Once they’ve been placed in the landfill, they create a dangerous soft spot that remains for years because most mattresses don’t break down over time.
But, there are alternatives—recycling, donation, and informed buying.
Recycling a Mattress
Ninety-five percent of the typical mattress can be recycled. Mattresses must be disassembled and broken down into their basic components for recycling. Parts that can be reused include:
Steel: Innerspring mattresses can contain up to 25 pounds of steel springs. Once removed, they can be melted down to make auto parts, roofing supplies, and other construction materials.
Foam: Both polyfoam and memory foam can be removed, shredded, and reused in new products like carpet padding, car seat padding, and gym equipment.
Fabrics/Fibers: Natural fibers can often be removed and made into new thread while synthetic fabrics and fibers can be shredded and made into industrial filters or padding.
Wood: Mattresses don’t contain wood, but their accompanying foundation or box spring often do. Wood can be chipped or mulched to be used for animal bedding, garden mulch, or making paper.
The hard part of recycling a mattress is finding the facilities capable of taking on the job. If you do have mattress recycling nearby, there may be a small fee. As more communities demand mattress recycling, companies will be more willing to take on the task of deconstructing mattresses, making it more viable for local communities.
National and local charity organizations often accept mattress donations. The mattress will need to be in good condition with no bed bugs, holes, or stains. Be sure to call ahead as some organizations have free pickup while others may charge a small fee. Other options include homeless, or women’s shelters as well as organizations that clean and resell mattresses at low cost for those in need.
Buy Biodegradable Mattresses
All natural latex mattresses are the only biodegradable mattresses on the market. Even these are only 95 percent biodegradable, as they do include some synthetic latex which is derived from petrochemicals. All natural latex is made from the sap of the rubber tree, a sustainable resource. After harvesting, the latex goes through one of two manufacturing processes, Dunlop or Talalay.
The Dunlop process produces a firm, dense mattress that’s durable with a thick layer of latex on the bottom. They’re less expensive than Talalay mattresses because the manufacturing process is straightforward. If you want a lighter, springier option, Talalay mattresses are softer and less dense. However, that means they aren’t quite as durable.
Latex mattresses come with a high price tag. At a lower price are latex hybrid mattresses, some of which use both types of latex or incorporate inner springs for comfort.
If you’re allergic to latex or find latex mattresses uncomfortable, you can still look for mattresses with natural and organic materials to reduce their carbon footprint. Organic wool or cotton covers, plant-based polyfoam or memory foam, and fire socks made of wool, cotton, thistle, or Kevlar are available. While Kevlar is not a natural material, it is not chemically treated, so it does not emit chemical smells.
Recycling, donating, and making an informed purchasing decision can all help keep your mattress out of the landfill. Sometimes it might take extra research and few phone calls, but it’s worth it to preserve resources for future generations.
Rick Blanchard is an expert on sleep product materials and manufacturing for BestMattressReviews.com. His research covers the entire life cycle of mattresses and bedding, including production, wear over time, and disposal. Rick lives in Tarrytown, New York.