Despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Mattress Recycling Council’s latest data shows that the Bye Bye Mattress program continues to excel in California, Connecticut and Rhode Island. Since these state programs began, more than 8 million mattresses have been collected, resulting in more than 300 million pounds of material diverted from the waste stream. In as little as five years, this industry-led nonprofit has put the United States at the forefront of mattress recycling. MRC’s Managing Director Mike O’Donnell explains what has made the mattress industry’s effort so successful and what MRC plans to accomplish next.
State Recycling Stats
At the end of 2020 here’s how many mattresses were recycled and pounds of material were diverted from landfills and incinerators to make other useful products.
MRC’s Model Works
For more than five years, MRC has developed strong and diverse statewide collection networks that reach rural and urban communities. MRC collaborates with local governments, solid waste facilities, waste haulers, nonprofit organizations and small- and minority-owned businesses to recycle the mattresses that they collect through a variety of sources including no-cost drop off sites, collection events and pickups through curbside bulky item collection service. MRC also provides businesses and organizations with small or large loads the ability to recycle their discarded mattresses. Hundreds of mattress retailers, hotels, hospitals, universities and military bases are benefiting from the program.
This network is leading to reduced illegal mattress dumping, too. MRC’s data indicates that zip codes with collection sites and collection events, as well as communities that accept mattresses through their curbside bulky item collection programs, experience less illegal mattress dumping.
By building effective collection networks, MRC is also creating and supporting jobs throughout the recycling supply chain. This begins with solid waste workers at facilities in MRC’s state programs that load discarded mattresses into dedicated collection containers. Across our state programs there are more than 300 solid waste collection sites. These containers are hauled by transporters to strategically located deconstruction facilities in each state program. Over 10,000 loads of mattresses are transported each year. These deconstruction facilities then create local jobs that require entry level positions as well as skilled technicians to maintain complex machinery. Nonprofit organizations including the Local Conservation Corps in California, Habitat for Humanity, Salvation Army, Park City Green, Goodwill and St. Vincent de Paul also play a critical role in the success of our state programs. By operating collection sites, collection events or recycling facilities, these groups have incorporated mattress recycling into their jobs training programs.
MRC is structured to be efficient, consistent and scalable to future states with supporting mattress recycling legislation.
What’s Next for MRC?
As a global leader in mattress recycling, MRC is dedicated to the long-term sustainability of our recycling programs. To achieve this, we invest $1 million annually to incubate creativity, and research new uses for recycled mattress components that support a circular economy for these products. Projects currently under development include new use for chemically recycled foam, using mattress components in batteries or supercapacitors and developing efficient processes for recycling pocketed coils.
Strong support from the mattress industry and beyond
MRC is fortunate to have the support of the mattress industry, mattress retailers, the solid waste industry and state agencies that provide oversight and guidance for our programs. We are also grateful to the international community of mattress recyclers and product stewardship organizations for sharing their best practices, cooperating on innovation projects and their commitment to global responsibility.