Recycling Around The World
The Netherlands is a global leader in mattress recycling
About 1.6 - 1.8 million mattresses are discarded in the Netherlands every year. A stack of about 1,000 Eiffel towers on top of each other. The Amsterdam Economic Board has been working on making mattresses circular since 2016, as mattresses are the largest flow of household residual waste.
Two years ago, two-thirds of all those mattresses ended up in incinerators, resulting in enormous CO2 emissions. That has changed rapidly, with the two mattress recycling companies in the Netherlands saying they will recycle 900,000 and 500,000 mattresses respectively this year. This means that about three quarters of all discarded mattresses are recycled.
The five largest producers, IKEA, Beter Bed, Auping, Swiss Sense and Hilding Anders, took the initiative for a so-called ‘voluntary producer responsibility’. It means that the producers will have to pay for the costs of the recycling.
In a minute and a half
At the end of last year, the company opened its third factory where mattresses are dismantled in less than a minute and a half, with two more to follow this year. There is enormous interest from abroad, says director Fioole. “There is already interest from twenty countries to adopt our concept.”
At the moment there is mainly so-called ‘low-value’ recycling in the form of insulation material. That must eventually change, says Nieuwenhuis. “All major manufacturers are now working on designing mattresses differently. Mattresses must be easier to take apart. The parts no longer need to be glued and a different type of foam must be used”.
Mattress and bed manufacturer Auping from Deventer has already launched such a mattress that can be fully recycled into a new one. This makes the company a forerunner in the sector.
According to Nieuwenhuis, it is not only a social responsibility of mattress manufacturers to make an effort to recycle. “It is also increasingly becoming a marketing tool. Consumers are becoming increasingly sensitive to how sustainable products are.”
Mattress recycling: a US success story
Americans throw out 20 million mattresses and box springs every year, according to US recycling programme Cascade Alliance. Around 240,000 mattresses and box springs have been recycled by Cascade Alliance members since its launch back in 2013, saving communities as much as $481,465 in refuse bills while recovering 15 million pounds of materials from the waste stream.
According to Cascade Alliance, the states of California, Connecticut and Rhode Island have become champions of strict mattress recycling stewardship. They have been able to recycle 1 million mattresses, saving 11 million cubic feet of landfill space in the process.
There are currently 56 mattress recycling facilities in North America, representing a 30% increase over 2013. Cascade Alliance’s facilities recycle as much as 90% of a mattress, thereby saving 23 cubic feet of landfill space per unit.
In recent years, major retailer Ikea has voiced its commitment to recycling the mattresses it sells – thus helping to make mattress recycling ‘a burgeoning industry’, says Cascade Alliance.