Mattress Disposal and Recycling
When you buy a new mattress, you’ve got to dispose of your old one responsibly. If you don’t, you could receive a fine and/or face prosecution for fly-tipping. Ideally, when you get rid of your mattress, you shouldn’t just assign it to a gloomy future as a landfill, but, instead, take it to a recycling centre or arrange for the local council or a mattress collection company to come for it. Hopefully, from there, it will go on to serve a more environmentally friendly purpose.
It would be best if you replaced your mattress every 7 to 10 years, maybe a little earlier, depending on the mattress’s quality. If your mattress is past its best and you need a new one, this guide is for you so you can dispose of your old one, recycle it and stay within the law while you do it.
Why we should recycle mattresses – Mattress Disposal and Recycling
If possible, we should recycle mattresses for the reasons below:
- Mattresses take up a large amount of space.
- Mattresses contain both organic and synthetic materials. The organic materials will break down in a few years, whereas the synthetic ones could take several decades to do it.
- The chemicals in mattresses, such as bleaches and dyes, cause ground pollution. They’re incredibly poisonous to plants and animals. They pollute and destroy ecosystems.
Recyclable parts of mattresses
Some mattress parts are recyclable. Below are the parts that businesses (or you) can reuse in some way:
- Springs: Businesses can melt these down to make various light iron-based items or scrap.
- Wadding: Manufacturers can repurpose this filling for cushions. How a business recycles the wadding depends on the material itself.
- Foam: It’s possible to use this for alternative carpeting or as refuse fuel once the business has cleaned, processed and baled the foam.
- Mattress covering: Normally, it’s possible to recycle a good quality covering. Although there are different ways to use the covering again, the possibility of contamination makes the use of it as refuse fuel the most common way.
A few little stats about mattress recycling and disposal – Mattress Disposal and Recycling
At the end of July 2019, the National Bed Federation (NBF), the leading trade association in the bed industry, published a report about End of Life mattresses’ treatment. The report looked at the disposal and recycling of mattresses from 2012 through 2017 and provided some interesting figures. Below are some of the ones they found:
The number of mattress disposals increased from 2016 to 2017
The NBF estimated that people and businesses in the UK disposed of around 7,260,000 mattresses between them and that 91% of the new mattresses people bought were replacing old ones. Although this replacement rate was the same for 2016, the nation disposed of fewer mattresses. The NBF estimated we’d thrown out around 6,720,00 mattresses.
The nation is buying more pocket sprung mattresses
It seems pocket sprung mattresses are becoming more popular in the UK. Recycling companies are receiving more of these types of mattresses for recycling. The use of pocket sprung mattresses accounted for less than 10% of the market 15 years ago, whereas today, it has grown to 40% of the market.
Recycling decreased in all but 4 of the 12 UK regions
In all but four of the 12 main UK regions, local authorities recycled fewer mattresses between 2016 and 2017. Only in the West Midlands, London, and Northern Ireland had the number of mattresses recycled per head not decreased. These figures took into account the growth of the population.
Local authorities have offered several reasons for this. They suspect more people are using household waste disposal centres (HWRCs) as a place to deposit their old mattresses. They also suggest fewer people are using their local authority’s kerbside collection services and, instead, making the most of some retailers’ take-back services.
How to get rid of an old mattress – Mattress Disposal and Recycling
There are different ways to get rid of your old mattress. Some are legal. Others are illegal. Below are the legal ways to do this:
Ask the council to collect your mattress
You can ask your local council to collect the mattress. Many provide a bulky waste collection service. Often this includes beds and mattresses. Be aware, however, that this may be expensive. Not only that, your mattress could end up in a local landfill. Many authorities say they’ll recycle some of the old waste or as much of it as they can.
Not all councils will charge you. Some offer a free mattress collection service. These are in the minority, however. Why not contact your local council and ask them whether they charge for bulky waste collection?
Often you’ll have to leave the items in a specific spot outside your house. If you’re doing away with your bed and your mattress, these will count as two items. You’ll pay a charge for each item.
Take your mattress to the local tip
If you have a vehicle large enough to transport your mattress, you can take the mattress to the tip. However, it may just end up as a landfill, so you may prefer to pay up and let the council collect the mattress, or you might wish to take the mattress to a recycling centre. If you can’t fit your mattress in your car, try folding it and tying it with some tight rope.
Take your mattress to a recycling centre
According to the consumer rights organisation Which?, more and more mattress recycling facilities are emerging in the UK. Recycling a mattress is hard work, but these facilities can break the mattress down into its recyclable components. Different agents can then prepare them for reuse, whether they’re melting the mattress springs and repurposing the metal or they’re making the use of synthetic layers as carpet underlay or as energy for plants. Check your local council’s website to find the nearest recycling centre to you and see what materials it accepts and doesn’t accept. Note that you always need a vehicle to take items into a recycling centre. Bringing them on foot isn’t allowed.
Some retailers offer an old mattress collection service as well as a delivery one. When they bring your new mattress, they’ll take the old one away with them. Note you must be sure of your purchase. Otherwise, you’ll end up with no bed. The retailer may also charge a fee for the service.
You don’t have to use the retailer’s service, however. There are specialist companies who pick up your old mattress whenever suits you. It’s worth ringing around and comparing prices before you hire any mattress collection service. Check, too, whether the company will recycle the mattress or take it to an old mattress recycling centre.
Donate a mattress
Why not donate your mattress? If it’s in good condition, you can give the mattress to someone for free, using a site such as Freecycle, or donate it to a charity shop. This is a good way to ensure the mattress stays out of the landfill, and you also help out someone a little less fortunate. The mattress should be clean, fit for purpose and have a fire safety label on it. Sometimes, the charity will collect the mattress for free.
Sell your mattress
Of course, in these times of COVID-19, lockdown and redundancy, you might want to sell your mattress. Again, it’s better than just seeing the mattress become landfill and again, you should make sure the mattress is clean, in good condition and that its fire safety labels and tags are intact. You can sell your mattress on a website such as Gumtree, eBay or Shpock. If you don’t know what to charge but want to be sure of the sale, ask for 20 or 30% of the original price.
How not to dispose of your mattress – Mattress Disposal and Recycling
As we mentioned, some ways of getting rid of your mattress are illegal. Some are bad for the environment. Some are both. Avoid doing the things below:
Burning your mattress
Some people dismantle the mattress the best they can and then burn the mattress and its parts. Once the fire gets going, you could find the flames hard to control, making it a real hazard. Not only that, the fumes could harm you and the environment.
Hiring a skip
If you’re environmentally conscious, you’ll want to steer clear of this option. By putting your mattress into a skip, you could also be contributing to the landfill problem. Don’t dump your mattress in someone else’s skip without permission. This is an offence.
Leaving your mattress out in the street
Unless you’ve arranged for the local council to collect your old mattress, you shouldn’t leave your mattress out in the street. It isn’t good for the environment. It’s anti-social, too, and above all, illegal. It constitutes fly-tipping and can earn you a (hefty) fine. Speaking of fly-tipping…
Fly tipping and illegal recycling – Mattress Disposal and Recycling
Fly-tipping is a crime that involves depositing waste on land that doesn’t have a licence to accept it. This could be an old mattress, some bin bags or some electrical items in the street. The tipping may be on a larger scale, consisting of vast amounts of construction waste or demolition waste and occur on different land types. Either way, it’s illegal. Below are some shocking statistics on fly-tipping:
- Statistics from 2016/17 show that councils in England dealt with more than a million fly-tipping incidents. The cost was staggering. They spent around £58 million clearing up the mess.
- In 2017/18, local authorities had to address around 998,000 incidents.
- In 2018/19, local authorities encountered more than a million cases (1,072,000) again. This is an increase of 8% compared to 2017/18.
- The Guardian online reports that illegal dumping has increased by 50% since 2012.
Clearly, fly-tipping is becoming a problem. The pandemic has exacerbated it. During the pandemic, some councils have reported an increase in the number of fly-tipping incidents. Coronavirus-related restrictions meant they had to reduce refuse collection services at some points.
Penalties for fly tipping
Whatever problems the pandemic is causing you, avoid dumping any rubbish illegally. The penalties can range from small fines to jail time. Below are the penalties you may face:
- Fixed penalty notice of between £150 and £400 for small-scale fly-tipping. This is in line with the Unauthorised Deposit of Waste (Fixed Penalties) Regulations 2016. It’s a criminal offence. In Scotland, they may issue the same penalty for any fly-tipping incident under 33A of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. In Wales, local authorities can issue fixed penalties for fly-tipping, regarding the offence as a breach of 33 (1)(a) of the Environmental Protection Act 1990.
- Seizure of property. Authorities in England and Wales can seize vehicles they suspect fly-tippers have used to transport and tip waste illegally.
- A fine of up to £50,000 or a prison sentence of 12 months if the conviction occurs in a Magistrate’s court.
- An unlimited fine and a prison sentence of up to five months if the conviction occurs in a Crown court.
- Payment of compensation and legal costs in addition to any fines received.
Authorities may also confiscate or freeze assets of fly tipping offenders, under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.
Bye Bye Mattress (USA)
The UK isn’t the only nation that has issues with mattresses. The US also throws out a ton of mattresses each year. The Guardian online reports that America gets rid of 18.2 million mattresses each year. Changes in consumer behaviour are part of the problem. Consumers have more choice and expect to be able to change their mattresses more frequently now.
When it comes to fly-tipping and mattress recycling, the US realises it has issues. The non-profit organisation the Mattress Recycling Council (MRC) develops and implements statewide mattress recycling programmes for states that have executed mattress recycling laws.
The organisation operates its Bye Bye Mattress recycling programme in California, Rhode Island and Connecticut. Under the programme, the organisation uses a recycling fee collected on every box spring and mattress sold to make recycling easier. The programme stops old waste from being waste and transforms it into recycling. This frees up space in landfills and incinerators.
Are you disposing of your mattress correctly? – Mattress Disposal and Recycling
Always think carefully about how you discard your mattress. How you do it can have serious consequences for the environment and your status as a law-abiding citizen. The best policy is to take your used mattress to a recycling centre or to contact the local council or a professional mattress collection company to take it away for you. If you’ve arranged for a mattress collection, check that whoever is performing it will transport the mattress somewhere for recycling. If they don’t say whether they will, your mattress could end up as a landfill.
You don’t always have to take your mattress to a recycling centre or ask someone to collect it and transport it for you. You may prefer to sell your mattress or donate it to someone. Whatever you do, please don’t leave it outside your home; dump it out in the countryside somewhere or sneak it into someone else’s skip. Otherwise, rather than a company coming to take the mattress away, the authorities could come to take you away.