Disposing of an old mattress used to be free – just a case of phoning the council to come and take it away. However, from April 2012 when most local authorities introduced bulky item collection fees, the disposal of mattresses instantly became considerably more expensive.
As a result, and despite the fact that most local councils have tried to ensure that the majority of mattresses they collect as bulky item waste will be recycled, many households now go for the DIY approach and lug their mattresses to landfill.
Left in landfill
Despite the fact that households using landfill think they are disposing of their old mattresses responsibly, the truth is that many of the components of beds and mattresses will not biodegrade but take up space in landfill as a hazardous waste product. For example, sprung mattresses typically contain 300 to 600 steel coils which will not biodegrade, but will instead remain wasted in the ground, whilst the chemicals used to make mattresses fire retardant can readily leach into the soil and local water systems, jeopardising public safety in both the short and long term.
Of course, there are also those who create their own ‘landfill’ or fall foul of rogue waste disposal companies in their efforts to dispose of their mattresses.
The UK has seen a rise in rogue ‘waste disposal’ companies who claim to remove and recycle bulky waste at lower prices than local authorities (and always for cash of course), before dumping the items in out of the way areas.
As such, incidences of fly-tipping spiked in 2012/13 with a 20% increase (Source: DEFRA) following the introduction of those council collection costs, and have since averaged a rise of approximately 6% year on year. Fly-tipped mattresses can commonly be found on local streets and highways, not awaiting paid council collection, but just discarded. Another favoured spot for fly-tippers is out of the way country areas, which quickly become significant dumping grounds as once one item is discarded, other fly-tippers follow suit.
This rogue dumping has an extremely negative impact on local environments, not least because fly-tipping is…
● Ugly and distracting, causing unsightly problems in residential streets and rural beauty spots alike.
● Dangerous, as with any discarded rubbish and large items comes the risk of accidents, particularly to children who may particularly see items like mattresses as something to play on.
● Hazardous, as of course the fire-retardant chemicals which leach into landfill also affect the local areas where mattresses are fly-tipped and may even additionally compromise the health of any children who mistake fly-tipped mattresses as a fun zone or kill local wildlife – also a major concern as a significant amount of fly-tipping takes place on beauty spots and areas of natural interest.
Although fly-tipping is seen by the irresponsible as a free alternative to paying for council disposal or recycling costs, ultimately it is extremely costly to councils and to communities, as the cost of cleanups invariably passed back to the community in council tax fees, which have also seen a year on year rise in recent years.
So, as well as both being environmentally unfriendly, negative-impact disposal methods, what else do landfill and fly-tipping have in common? Essentially, the fact that they are both a waste of materials which can be extremely useful once recycled is another common factor which is also an extreme waste when you consider that it is actually possible to recycle 100% of all bed and mattress components.
Reasons to recycle
Recycling of beds and mattresses is a relatively straightforward process which involves the stripping down and recycling of bed bases and mattresses in order to collate component parts, such as:
● Steel – retrieved from box springs and mattress springs, steel can be recycled by combining with new steel to create many household and industrial items.
● Foam – retrieved from mattresses, much of the Polyurethane and Latex foam used in mattresses already contains plant oils from renewable sources such as castor beans and soy. Once the mattress is shredded, the foam can be retrieved and recycled into other types of padding and insulation, such as carpet backing and underlay.
● Wood – the wood used in bed base production, such as pine, spruce and fir, is sourced from renewable sources and is ideal for further recycling. Once retrieved from bed bases, the wood is generally chipped and recycled into pet litters, animal bedding, biomass fuel and garden products such as mulch and chippings.
● Fabrics – mattresses and bases include many textiles such as cotton, wool, rayon, sisal, coconut fibres and even silk, all of which can be retrieved and recycled back to the textiles industry for use in furniture upholstery, pillow stuffing and carpet making.
With all these reasons to recycle, it’s vital to ensure that households can access easy ways to recycle responsibly, through disposing of mattresses via recycling centres rather than landfill or by using professional collection and recycling services of reputable companies, such as Collect Your Old Bed, who are fully licensed and offer 100% assured recycling of all beds and mattresses.