Hotels offer a great sleeping solution when you’re on the road, but all those beds mean a whole lot of mattresses that need to be responsibly disposed of once they’re past their useful life. That’s why the 1,574-room Hilton Anaheim recently recycled more than 2,500 mattresses as part of the chain’s mattress recycling program, which is one of the largest in the country.

In the United States, 38 million mattresses and box springs were purchased in 2010. A staggering 15 to 20 million mattresses and box springs are disposed of each year, according to the Mattress Recycling Council. Because they are so bulky, they hog space in landfills and are difficult to process and compress. As available landfill space and raw materials become more scarce, mattress recycling solutions are more necessary than ever.

New Life for Old Materials

Hilton Anaheim recently recycled more than 2,500 mattresses. Photo: Hilton Anaheim

The good news is that 95 percent of the mattress and box spring components are recyclable, according to Judy Pines, director of sustainability and responsible sourcing at Hilton. Mattresses are primarily composed of steel, wood, foam, cotton and a topper. The steel springs are repurposed into tools, construction materials and automobile parts, while the wood is repurposed into tempered flooring and pressed wood products. Fibers are repurposed into oil filters, mats, and pillow and furniture upholstery stuffing, and quilt scrap can be recycled and repurposed into carpet padding. In addition to saving space in landfills, recycling materials saves trees from being logged, reduces the need for mining metals and cuts down on cultivating cotton, which is a very environmentally demanding crop.

“Hilton has recycled 8,100 mattress and box spring pieces, totaling 432,000 pounds of waste, over the last several months,” explains Pines. “This initiative has spanned many states, including Tennessee, California, New York and North Carolina.”

The Hilton Anaheim’s mattress recycling initiative launched in California in January and was Hilton’s largest mattress recycling project in the United States to date. Hilton engages with strategic partners who manage the mattress recycling projects and coordinate their efforts with the hotel, mattress provider and the recycling facility.

“Hilton is committed to reducing waste generated by our properties, and programs such as mattress recycling allow us to deliver against that commitment,” says Pines. “The Hilton Anaheim mattress recycling project yielded over 5,700 mattress and box spring pieces.”

Dollars and Sense

The mattress recycling initiative at Hilton Anaheim saved the hotel money in addition to being good for the environment. Photo: Hilton Anaheim

Mattress and box spring recycling is also good for the bottom line as well as the environment. According to Pines, on average there’s a 50 percent cost savings by recycling mattresses instead of sending them to landfills.

Waste reduction is just one of the many sustainability initiatives Hilton is working on. Since 2009, Hilton has reduced energy use by 14.5 percent, reduced water use by 14.1 percent, reduced waste output by 27.6 percent and cut carbon output by 20.9 percent across its 4,700 hotels globally. In addition to being good environmental stewards, Hilton has saved an estimated $550 million from these reduction achievements, says Pines.

Hilton uses LightStay, a proprietary sustainability management platform that analyzes and reports on environmental performance metrics. This sustainability tool highlights areas where hotels can improve environmental performance, helping to inspire greater waste reduction and resource conservation efforts. Hotel mattress recycling programs, among many others, are tracked in LightStay to monitor ongoing progress. Additionally, Hilton has also started donating soap and surplus food and composting food waste to meet sustainability goals. The result of all these efforts has been a 27.6 percent reduction in waste since 2009.

Wondering how to recycle your own mattress? Check out our Guide to Recycling Mattresses.

Feature photo courtesy of Hilton Anaheim

By Sarah Lozanova

Sarah Lozanova is an environmental journalist and copywriter and has worked as a consultant to help large corporations become more sustainable. She is the author of Humane Home: Easy Steps for Sustainable & Green Living, and her renewable energy experience includes residential and commercial solar energy installations. She teaches green business classes to graduate students at Unity College and holds an MBA in sustainable management from the Presidio Graduate School.