When is a Mattress Not Fully Recyclable?

Mattresses seem like they are one-time-use items, but did you know 99% of all mattresses are recyclable? Even damaged and wet ones! However, there is that one percent of mattresses that are unable to be recycled. These are called non-conforming units. These units are not recyclable due to the condition of the unit that reduces and or eliminates the potential for its components to be recycled.

A non-conforming unit may have gone through one of the following scenarios to receive that title:

  1. Discarded in the rain for days on end (They might get moldy)
  2. Mixed with other waste that would contaminate it (You don’t want to touch that, and neither does the recycler!)
  3. Contaminated with bodily fluid or blood (Yes this does happen. Unfortunately, people have passed away on a mattress and these can not be recycled)
  4. Illegally dumped and left in a gutter or in a nearby stream (No good for the stream, street or reuse markets!)
  5. Contaminated with bed bugs (dun dun dun!) ?

Now, if a mattress gets a little wet from sitting out in the rain for the night, that can still be recycled. We’re talking about the units that sit in and soak up water for days on end. 

While our main goal is to recycle as many mattresses as possible, some conditions prohibit this.  At TSR, we pride ourselves on worker safety when handling mattresses; we don’t want our employees risking illness or harm to themselves or others and maintaining restrictions on how we receive mattresses as well as the condition of the units we receive, ensures our team’s safety!

Additionally, even if we were to cut the mattress open to recycle it, we would have to be able to recycle the components that we pull out and send out as commodities: the foam, the cotton, and the topper.  All of these elements would be rejected by our mattress-building customers because it is damaged or unsanitary and we always strive to provide good-quality recycled materials for our downstream vendors. ?

So do non-conforming units get tossed in a landfill? Not necessarily!

In order to help keep units out of landfills and save that space for real waste, we take extra precautions to break down a “non-conforming mattress” to recycle the steel and wood in the frame. These two elements make up 70% of the common (non-foam) mattress. The remaining 30% of material that is contaminated is discarded, but because steel is melted down and wood goes to mulch or incineration, these items have a higher recycling rate.

Even the dreaded bed-bug-infested units can be treated with a safe application of pesticides by our special processing procedures. Once they are treated, a bed bug unit can be broken down and recycled. No need to burn a bed-bug-infested mattress like in the movies! However, these types of processing take more time, more resources, and strict safety precautions to ensure the employees and facility are protected.

While we want to make sure that every mattress is recycled, we know that’s not possible. But as top-of-the-line professionals, we do everything we can to get as much of the mattress recycled as possible, leaving the least amount of waste for the landfills. This process protects the environment while creating new resources for products. We believe in creating a world that is greener and happier for future generations.

Is the thought of bed bugs still making your skin crawl? Well, bed bugs aren’t as bad as you think! Stay tuned to learn more about the amazing life of a bed bug and how humans and bed bugs have learned to cohabitate for generations.

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