Leading the Way: Finding and Funding Solutions That Reduce Illegal Dumping of Mattresses

Illegal dumping is a serious issue for many communities. In addition to the nuisance of blight, it can create health, safety and economic consequences. MRC recognizes the importance of addressing this pressing social problem and is collecting data about abandoned mattresses, engaging with local leaders in especially hard-hit communities, conducting education and outreach about mattress recycling and disposal options and researching attitudes and other factors that predict illegal dumping behavior.

Why we have taken this approach is a culmination of hundreds of conversations with local and state leaders, environmental justice organizations, law enforcement professionals and those that have attended our workshops. We also recently organized an international blue-ribbon panel of illegal dumping and behavioral experts to advise MRC, regulatory agencies and policy makers as to the root causes of this problem and to recommend changes that governments can implement to address those causes. The panel’s white paper finds that the illegal dumping of durable goods like mattresses can only be effectively addressed through a comprehensive, collaborative and inclusive approach.

Spearheading Data Collection and Analysis to Deter Illegal Dumping

In California, our Illegally Dumped Mattress Collection Initiative is tracking mattresses dumped in the right-of-way like roadsides, sidewalks and alleys. Since it launched in 2016, we have tracked the location of over 250,000 mattresses and used this data to improve our collection network, target our education and outreach and help local leaders understand the extent of the problem in their communities.

The success of the Initiative depends on statewide participation. Today, more than 70 different entities from 32 counties are contributing information to our database. MRC is seeking additional participants from remaining counties. To achieve this, we are expanding our work with Local Conservation Corps while continuing to enroll interested solid waste operators, solid waste facilities, cities, counties and nonprofit organizations in the Initiative.

MRC has collected five years of valuable data from the Initiative which we analyze each year for our annual report. The results consistently indicate that communities with mattress collection sites and events are experiencing less illegal dumping. The entities providing data to the Initiative also receive a map to visualize the tracked locations of reported units. This data sharing increases their ability to deter illegal dumping and target their education and outreach.  

Creating Awareness and Offering Resources to Encourage Proper Mattress Disposal

Education and outreach is an important pillar to any illegal dumping mitigation strategy. That is why MRC provides mattress retailers and our collection network with free resources and toolkits to help them promote mattress recycling and discourage illegal dumping.

We also encourage the media and our collection network to use our Stop Illegal Dumping Public Service Announcement. It has received more than 3.7 million impressions across TV and radio stations in our program states.

Our outreach materials are developed in multiple languages and we design our advertising campaigns to reach demographics more likely to engage in illegal dumping behaviors and communities most affected by illegal dumping.

Cultivating Collaboration and Partnerships to Fund Illegal Mattress Dumping Solutions

MRC values working together to develop interventions and clean up neighborhoods. Through our participation on local and state task forces we are engaged in illegal dumping discussions at all levels of government. We use these opportunities to cultivate partnerships to recruit new collection sites and events to strengthen program access.  We also share our Initiative data to increase the effectiveness of responding to and preventing illegal dumping.

In 2020, MRC solicited proposals from adversely affected Initiative participants to test solutions to mitigate illegal dumping in their communities. As a result of the responses, MRC allocated $300,000 to fund four projects that implement innovative education and outreach campaigns or pilot new ways of providing mattress pick up or removal in hard-hit areas.

Take Advantage of Our Expertise and Resources To Clean Up Your Community

We are curbing illegal dumping by investing in community outreach initiatives and collaborative problem-solving. Here’s how we can work together.

In California, your city or county could receive funding by participating in our Initiative to track illegal mattress dumping. Meanwhile, anyone anywhere can share our PSA or use our free outreach materials to encourage mattress recycling and proper disposal.

Local governments considering changes to illegal dumping ordinances or strengthening enforcement should consider the best practices outlined in our guide for policymakers.

In addition, our program coordinators want to join your task forces and community meetings that create solutions for preventing and reducing illegal dumping. Please contact us and engage us in your discussions.

Learn more about how we #LeadTheWay in addressing illegal mattress dumping here.