Mattress Recycling Business Opportunities

Landfill Bans and Environmental Responsibility Initiatives Spur Development

Recycled Mattress
PhotoAlto/Milena Boniek, Getty Images

Mattress recycling has emerged as a recycling business opportunity in recent years. It has been aided by the greater than four million old mattresses and a similar number of box springs being disposed of every year, in conjunction with growing pressures to better manage this waste stream. Landfill pressures and environmental responsibility initiatives have helped position mattress recycling as an emerging opportunity within the recycling industry, with more mattress recycling operations continuing to open.

Why Recycle Old Mattresses and Box Springs

Almost 4.5 million mattresses and 4.5 million box springs are sent to the landfill or incinerator every year in the United States, according to Nationwide Mattress Recycling, amounting to 250 million pounds of mattress material. With an average mattress consuming 23 cubic feet of space in a landfill, and the threat of fire retardants leaching from them, there is increasing pressure from landfills to divert old beds.

At the same time, environmental initiatives by the mattress industry, retailers, institutions and the hospitality industry also are creating an increased demand for mattress recycling services. The good news is that mattresses are widely recyclable - over 95 percent on average according to one mattress recycler.

Sources of Mattresses

Sources of mattresses can include:

  • Municipal waste management and recycling programs
  • Institutions
  • Hotels and other hospitality industry generators of old mattresses
  • Mattress manufacturers and retailers offering to recycle old mattresses
  • Individual households
  • Charity programs that generate unusable mattresses while attempting to provide mattresses to those in need
  • Also consider taking stuffed furniture as well.

Public policy changes can have an important influence on increasing mattress recycling, and can increase the viability of a mattress recycling business where favorable incentives are in place. Corporate mattress recycling initiatives, such as the one announced by Ikea, can also drive the need for recycling service providers.

As of 2017, there were 56 mattress recycling facilities in North America, an uptick of 30% since 2013.

Sources of Revenue

Typically, mattress recyclers charge to accept old mattresses – based on websites reviewed; this is generally in the $12 -20 range. Recycled materials are also sold. In some jurisdictions, stewardship fees will help improve the viability of recycling operations.

Charging fees can deter old mattress recovery, however. Free drop-off can stimulate recycling efforts. Some jurisdictions facilitate the cost of recycling by levying a product recycling fee at the time of new pallet purchase.

Facility and Equipment Requirements

A mattress recycling facility requires covered warehouse space with receiving/shipping doors and dock plates to receive inbound mattresses, a teardown area for disassembling mattresses, and storage for unbaled and baled residuals of the teardown process.

Equipment may include a range of machinery, including industrial baler, wood grinding equipment, forklift or pallet jack for moving bales, open bins for recovered steel, and a compactor for non-recyclable residuals.

How It Works

Mattresses and box springs are created from a number of materials, including wood, metal, fabric and plastic, which can all be recycled once they are separated. The recovery rate of recyclable bed materials is over 95 percent. At Canadian Mattress Recycling, operators take apart box springs and mattresses by hand. As these products are being dismantled, materials are sorted and segregated. Some materials are baled to save space in the recycling facility and provide transport efficiencies. Wood can be reduced to chips and steel sent to steel recyclers. Materials recovered can include:

  • Wood
  • Fabric
  • Felt
  • Foam
  • Cotton
  • Plastic

Markets for Recovered Materials

Aside from receiving compensation for incoming mattresses, recyclers also hope to generate revenue from the reclaimed materials:

  • Quilting and foam can be turned into carpet underlay.
  • Wood is recycled into biofuel or other recycled wood products
  • Plastic is recycled by plastic recyclers
  • Steel from the boxsprings is recycled into new metal products
  • Cotton and felt can be recycled into new felt and insulation

Mattress Recycling Companies and Organizations

Statewide mattress recycling stewardship programs have been established in California, Rhode Island and Connecticut. The Bye Bye Mattress program, operated by the Mattress Recycling Council (MRC) has made a difference in those states. Almost three years after MRC first launched Bye Bye Mattress, MRC recyclers have collected 3 million mattresses from hundreds of cities, towns, solid waste facilities, landfills, and other entities like retailers, hotels, and universities.

For more information on mattress recycling, please contact the Mattress Recycling Council and the International Sleep Products Association.