The Mattress Recycling Council (MRC), one of NERC’s newest Sustaining Advisory Members, is our featured member spotlight this month.
In the U.S., at least 15 million mattresses are discarded every year or an average of 50,000 per day. In 2013, Connecticut became the first state in the country to enact a law requiring the industry to develop and administer a statewide program to collect and recycle discarded mattresses and box springs. California and Rhode Island followed with similar legislation later that year. MRC is the nonprofit organization formed by the mattress industry to operate these state programs. Known as Bye Bye Mattress to consumers, each state’s program is funded by a recycling fee collected when consumers buy a mattress or box spring.
Now in its 6th year, MRC’s leadership is remarkable: more than six million mattresses recycled, diverting waste from landfills in program states through reuse, recycling and biomass. MRC has successfully developed mattress collection networks and contracts with third party recycling facilities across the states where it operates to dismantle old mattresses and box springs. These efforts have reduced reliance on incinerators and landfills by diverting mattresses from the waste stream, created jobs and helped reduce the number of illegally dumped mattresses. Recent articles in both the Connecticut Mirror and Hartford Courant detail the positive impact of the program.
Across the country, several states are actively considering adding mattress recycling legislation.
In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed legislation earlier this year. The International Sleep Products Association (ISPA) (another NERC Member and the group that created MRC) is actively engaging with the Governor’s office, legislators and stakeholders with hopes to expand to the populous state and achieve economies of scale in the Northeast. Maine passed a mattress recycling study bill last year. ISPA is actively engaged in this effort, working with local stakeholders on a possible pilot recycling program in the near future. In Massachusetts, legislators are considering similar legislation.
In each state where MRC’s Bye Bye Mattress program operates, MRC:
- Charges a fee at the time of purchase that funds the cost of operating and administering that state’s program. This fee applies to both individual consumers and institutional large volume purchasers (such as hotels, dormitories, etc.).
- Develops no-cost and accessible statewide opportunities for residents to discard their used mattresses.
- Provides no-cost collection of discarded mattresses from solid waste facilities.
- Provides solid waste facilities with suitable storage containers and transportation of discarded mattresses.
- Provides for the transportation and recycling of mattresses and box springs.
- Conducts extensive outreach to educate consumers, retailers and other stakeholders about the program.
Mattresses are collected through a variety of channels, offering consumers and businesses options for recycling, including:
- Solid waste collection system. MRC works with the solid waste collection infrastructure that exists in each state to separate and recycle mattresses collected through that system. This consists of establishing collection sites at solid waste facilities (landfills, transfer stations, public works yards) or working with the party responsible for curbside collection (a municipality or waste contractor).
- Collection events. Supplementing its permanent collection network, MRC hosts collection events where residents can drop off mattresses at no cost. For these events, MRC provides labor, transportation, recycling and publicity.
- Commercial Volume Program. Businesses and other entities with large quantities of used mattresses can either drop off or have these units picked-up by an MRC- contracted transporter.
More than 80 percent of mattress components can be recycled, diverting valuable resources from local landfills. The most prominent commodities extracted include:
- Foam - used in carpet padding
- Quilt Panels - used in carpet padding
- Metal Springs - sold to scrap metal markets
- Wood - used as mulch or as an alternative fuel resource
- Cotton - used in insulation applications
MRC supports this effort by investing in research to identify new end markets to increase recycling rates, improve the efficiency of used mattress collection and help MRC’s recyclers increase profitability by identifying mattress dismantling and recycling best practices. This short video explains more about MRC and the positive impact it is having in program
“MRC joined NERC to promote the importance of mattress recycling and the leading role that manufacturers play in product stewardship in the mattress industry,” according to MRC Policy and Government Affairs Coordinator Grant Johnson. “Participation in NERC conferences and events is important to our mission.”
NERC enthusiastically welcomes MRC to its growing roster of Sustaining Advisory Members and looks forward to a collaboration that will successfully bring effective mattress recycling laws to additional states.