Mattresses are just about the bulkiest item a consumer can recycle. On the plus side, you’re likely only disposing of one once every 10 to 20 years, but the size and weight means it won’t be an easy process. If you are looking for a new, more environmentally responsible mattress, visit Earth911’s sustainable mattress buying guide.
The good news is that mattresses contain several valuable materials like steel that increases the recycling market. However, most mattress recycling companies don’t want to deal with consumers disposing of one mattress, especially if you need it hauled away. This means your best bet is to find a hauler who will recycle it for you.
Here are the four best options (in order of ease and cost) to accomplish this:
- If you’re buying a replacement mattress that is being delivered, ask if the store will haul away your old mattress for recycling.
- If your local recycling program offers bulk waste collection, call and ask if mattresses are included and recycled.
- Call a secondhand store like Goodwill, The Salvation Army, or St. Vincent de Paul (each local affiliate has different acceptance/collection rules) and ask if mattress donations are accepted/hauled away for recycling.
- If you’re recycling a mattress to clean out a property, find a local hauling company that will take away this and other items for recycling. You can find these companies in the phone book or using an online search engine like Yelp.
Frequent Mattress Recycling Questions
Why should I recycle my mattress?
Roughly 80 percent of materials in the average mattress can be easily recycled, yet each year in the U.S., we throw out 15 to 20 million mattresses, and they take up 40 cubic feet of space in a landfill.
Are thrift stores allowed to sell used mattresses?
As mentioned above, all local affiliates are different as to what they accept. But assuming that your mattress is 10+ years old and covered in dead skin cells, don’t count on donation being an option.
St. Vincent de Paul has its own recycling program in California and Oregon that recycles 170,000 mattresses and box springs annually, so it’s possible your local store will accept and ship them for recycling.
What types of recyclable materials are in mattresses?
Your standard mattress is comprised of a wood frame, steel springs, polyurethane foam and an outer fabric. During recycling, the top layer of fabric is cut, peeled and separated to expose the remaining materials.
Metal springs are sold as scrap metal, as steel is one of the most commonly recycled materials in the world. The wood is often chipped or used for mulch. The foam can be recycled into carpet padding, and fabrics can be recycled into industrial machinery filters.
Are box springs recyclable?
Yes. Box springs are comprised of a wood frame, steel coils and cotton outer layer (so everything but the foam from a mattress). They have a very similar recycling process, and are usually accepted with mattresses for recycling.
How do I dispose of air mattresses and waterbeds?
While these types of mattresses are easy to break down, they lack the valuable materials that would justify the costs of recycling. If at all possible, try to repair these mattresses yourself, such as patching holes to prevent leaks. Otherwise, you should drain them so they take up as little space as possible and dispose in the garbage.
What should I do with foam mattress pads, like a Tempur-Pedic mattress?
The foam used in memory foam or Tempur-Pedic mattresses is the same that is inside your mattress. Unfortunately, they don’t include the valuable materials that justify the costs of recycling. Your best bet is to either reuse the pad with your new mattress or try to recycle it along with an old mattress, because it’s unlikely to be accepted for recycling on its own.
Are there any state laws regarding mattress recycling?
Yes. In California, Connecticut and Rhode Island, the Mattress Recycling Council has implemented a law where retailers collect a disposal fee on all new mattress and box spring sales. This funds mattress recycling programs and provides mattress recycling drop-off sites. The laws do not ban mattresses from landfills, though.
- Bye Bye Mattress: Educational guide and recycling locator for California, Connecticut and Rhode Island, provided by the Mattress Recycling Council
- 10 Sustainable Mattress Companies: Our buyers guide reviews the most sustainable mattress manufacturers to help you find your perfect green sleep
- How One Company Is Changing Mattress-Making: Some small-scale manufacturers are trying to shake up the mattress-making industry and inject some ease into the shopping experience, making it a little more eco-friendly, too
- Green Label Guide: Mattresses: A look at some of the industry’s most relevant third-party certifiers and a few rules on how to evaluate them