National Bed Federation’s much-welcomed mattress recycling report provides good news, yet more work still to do...



In the mattress recycling industry good news is always welcome, uplifting and inspirational and the recent National Bed Federation (NBF) ‘2019 End of Life (EoL) Mattress Report’ has highlighted a very welcome increase of recycling: a 55% rise in the amount of mattresses being recycled between 2015 and 2017, after an initial drop in recycling between 2014 and 2015.

The NBF threw plenty of research into this report where they surveyed local authorities, manufacturers, retailers and recyclers, as well as using detailed analysis from published data, to analyse the different types of mattresses used around the UK and how they are disposed of.

The report estimates how in 2017 there were 7.26 million mattresses (181,500 tonnes) disposed of by households, businesses and service providers which equated to 91% of all new mattress sales. Of these, 19 % were diverted from landfill to mattress recycling businesses, representing a 4% increase in the overall mattress recycling rate, which is calculated as a percentage of new mattress replacement sales. An estimated 1.36 million mattresses were recycled in total in 2017, 55 % higher than the 879,000 estimated for 2015.

Of the mattresses that weren’t recycled, 40 % went into landfill and 41 % to energy-from-waste. It is predicted that the recycling rate for 2018 will have increased to 20-22 %, with mattress recyclers reporting that their throughput in 2018 was 29 % higher than in 2017.

The problem with mattresses

The report highlights some of the reasons behind a proportionally low recycling rate. As many of us may have experienced from moving house or just having a clear out, it can be difficult to know how to dispose of a mattress and keep it out of landfill. Many local authorities offer bulky waste collection services, but the weight of mattresses makes them complex and costly for councils to transport, while the value of the materials that can be recovered is low.

We at Eco Matt Recycling fully understand how the report mentions the level of intense labour involved to deconstruct and separate soft materials such as cotton and foam that are often attached to metal inner springs. As such, the process of disassembly involves manual labour, which is where we excel in with our innovated collaboration of semi-automated and manual techniques.

With recycling rates on the increase, it seems that manufacturers, retailers and other businesses are making a concerted effort to improve the way mattresses are recycled. Even though the report is welcome news, it may be too early to celebrate as the report concluded at the current rate of progression, it would take another 50 years to reach a 100 % mattress recycling rate.

President of the NBF, Tony Lisanti reflects upon the amount of work still to do and commented how “It is gratifying to see this organic increase in the rate of mattresses being diverted from landfill but we still have a lot to do if we are going to meet the NBF’s ambitious target of 75 % diversion from landfill by 2028 through a combination of mattress recycling with energy-from-waste.”

He further added how the “The NBF is already working on many of the report’s recommendations for improving the rate and fate of mattresses at the end of their useful life as well as reducing the impact of our production on the resources of our planet. We must all accept shared responsibility, build mutual trust and work together proactively to achieve these goals.”

As part of its aspirations to increase recycling, the NBF has partnered with the Textile Recycling Association and has launched the Register of Approved Mattress Recyclers (RAMR) a scheme that aims to ‘establish a UK-wide register of approved mattress recyclers, which meet or exceed expected, desirable standards of operation.’

This register is a welcome step in the right direction and intends to provide accurate information about trusted mattress recyclers across the UK, so that local authorities, businesses and individuals looking to recycle their used mattresses can ensure they are using a legitimate, reputable operator. The first recycling companies to sign up the RAMR are currently being assessed.

The NBF’s full ‘2019 End of Life (EoL) Mattress Report’ can be accessed online at the National Bed Federation website.

We welcome the NBF’s authoritative, well-researched report and will work tirelessly to work hard in increasing the proportion of recycled mattresses compared to those that are sent to landfill.

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