Getting a new bed or mattress can be a relief for your back, but unless the delivery of your new mattress includes the removal of the old one, it can also cause a headache as you find yourself with an old mattress to dispose of. So, in order from very bad to very good, what are your options?
Fly-tipping – the “not-an” option
It’s important to realise that the dump-and-run method of fly-tipping is not an environmentally-responsible or even a legal option for mattress disposal. Despite the fact that most of us can name an area of our home-town which is a regular dumping ground for old household goods, many local councils are at last becoming tougher on offenders. As they face clean-up costs which run into hundreds of thousands each year, councils such as Newham are encouraging residents to report offenders, who are then actively prosecuted. With successful prosecutions resulting in heavy fines and even custodial sentences, fly-tipping is not an option for disposal.
Landfill – the rubbish option
Taking mattresses to landfill might seem to be a responsible disposal method, at least compared to dumping them on the streets, but with over 12 million landing in landfill each year, many of which include non-biodegradable components, a mattress in landfill may help the look of the local environment, but does nothing to benefit the global environmental cause, making it the right place, but wrong method option.
Council collection – costs the earth?
Many local councils offer bulky item collection services, which are a great option for disposing of an old mattress. However, although many councils try to offer as convenient a service as possible in a bid to discourage fly tipping, collections are still subject to availability across collection routes, meaning that it can sometimes be a long wait between ordering the service and actual collection.
Another consideration is that almost every council in England makes a charge for bulky item collection. Prices are set by individual councils and vary considerably, but with examples such as £21 in Rotherham, £31 for up to 5 items in Dover, £36 minimum from Bournemouth Council and £67.50 for up to 6 items from South Gloucestershire Council, this option isn’t necessarily an affordable one. In West Sussex the general guidance is to take old mattresses to your local Household Waste Recycling Site (HWRS), if you have a way of transporting it there. Additionally, although many councils endeavour to meet their own green targets for recycling by disposing of collected bulky items at recycling centres, not every council can yet guarantee that mattresses will be fully recycled rather than end up in landfill.
Recycling – the responsible route
Recycling a mattress is a good option for responsible disposal as, done correctly, it’s possible to re-use all components of a bed through processes which include:
- Collating mattresses by material type.
- Mechanically shredding or manually stripping mattresses, depending on the material type.
- Organising the by-products and materials such as polyester, foam, cotton and steel extracted from the mattresses to be passed on to other recycling outlets or manufacturers as components for new products, such as:
- Pillow stuffing; furniture upholstery; carpet foam or underlay padding from mattress cotton and foam, whilst cotton can also be cleaned and used in clothing.
- Rayon and sisal material might be recycled into new mattresses.
- The steel from sprung bedding can be re-used into innumerable products.
- The wood from box springs may be recycled as garden mulch and chippings or animal bedding. It might also be used to produce a biomass fuel.
So how can you go about recycling your unwanted mattress?
- Recycling centre: Dropping off an unwanted mattress at a recycling centre is an excellent option. Unfortunately it’s not always the most convenient as it does involve transporting the mattress to the centre during opening times, something which not everyone has the transport or physical strength to do.
- Freegle / Freecycle: Yahoo’s Freegle groups offers a method for passing on usable items to other local households. However, it can take some time to organise a successful collection after offering items as non-collection is rife with many groups. Additionally, this method comes with no guarantees that the mattress will eventually be properly recycled once it has finally ceased to be useful to the new owner. Or you could try SnaffleUp or Recycle.co.uk or trashnothing.com.
- Private collection companies:
Affordable recycling of mattresses is something taken seriously by ethical private companies who specialise in the removal and recycling of beds and mattresses. Collect Your Old Bed collection service starts at just £9.99, less than most council services and guarantees 100% recycling of beds and mattresses.
Overall, if you’re looking for what to do with your old mattress but need to consider convenient disposal options that are affordable to your pocket and to the local and global environment, then arranging for your old mattress to be collected and properly recycled is not only a good thing to do, it’s also the right thing to do.