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How the New California Mattress Recycling Law Affects YOU

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A Tale of a billion mattresses

More than 50,000 mattresses are discarded in the US each day. You didn’t know that, did you? That’s 350,000 a week and a mind boggling 1.4 million a month and this goes on month by month by month. We often tend to forget that mattresses have a limited lifespan – 5 to 10 years usually and shorter if for some reason or other, we decide that it no longer serves its purpose and we go looking for a replacement.

In an ideal world, most of us would be conscientious enough to think of sustainable ways to dispose of household waste and unwanted junk but sadly, this is not (always) the case. Mattresses are some of the most difficult household items to discard – they are heavy, bulky and can take up a lot of space which means that in a landfill, they also will take up a lot of space. But not all discarded mattresses end up in a landfill; some, if still in good condition, get donated while others end up getting dumped on the curb or some alleyway, which is the worst thing one can do but it still happens and it happens every single day.

Which states have mattress recycling programs?

There are only 3 states currently who implement a statewide mattress recycling program: Connecticut, Rhode Island and California.

The Mattress Recycling Council, a non-profit organization and a division of the International Sleep Products Association, developed and manages all three recycling programs of the aforementioned states in accordance with their respective laws. This program is known, quite playfully might I add, as Bye Bye Mattress. Providing simple solutions and straightforward processes to how, where and when to recycle your old and used mattresses, Bye Bye Mattress also seeks to consolidate all information for recycling centers, not only in the three states where it currently operates but for the other remaining states without a government mandated recycling program as well. (Note: Further research indicates that some states are in the process of approving their mattress recycling laws. Watch this space)

More than 75% of a mattress is recyclable and here is a simple breakdown of where its parts may go:

  • Metal and box springs – can go to steel mills and foundries to be melted down and reused as parts of a new product such as automobiles, steel beams for buildings and such
  • Foam – while memory foam cannot be broken down into its original plastic polymer, it can however, be shredded and reused to make another foam product such as car seat padding, animal beds and even crown molding and picture frames
  • Textiles – work much in the same way as foam that it cannot be broken down into its original form but can be shredded to reused as filling or insulation
  • Wood – can be used as a fuel source or mulch

There are a few rules in place when it comes to recycling an old mattress and the main one being that if a mattress is found to be contaminated, be it with bed bugs or something that may require a PPE suit for it to be handled (such as some used hospital beds and the like), then the recycling center has the absolute right to refuse to accept it, and understandably so. Currently, with an ongoing pandemic, some, but not all, recycling centers have ceased receiving mattresses for the meantime. 

Man standing in a junkyard

Why California Passed a New Mattress Recycling Law

California’s original mattress recovery and recycling law, required manufacturers and retailers to provide their consumers with the option to have their used mattress either picked up free of charge at the time of delivery of their new mattress or provide consumers with a free drop-off opportunity with mattress recycling, provided these retailers and manufacturers are registered with the Mattress Recycling Council. This law did not apply to e-commerce retailers. 

In January 2020, the law was amended to include futons, as well as implement a $10.50 fee, which was to be remitted as dues to the MRC on a monthly basis. California retailers delivering new mattresses to a California consumer are required to provide free pickup and recycling of the old mattress but this requirement originally had two exceptions:

  1. A contaminated mattress
  2. The new mattress was purchased online and was delivered by a common carrier

As of January 2021, the law has once again been amended to require any company that sells a mattress or futon to a customer living in California to provide free pickup and recycling of the old item at no additional charge to the customer within 30 days of delivering the new product. This law also lifted the exception given to online retailers and common carriers and by law, they must provide the service to all their customers living in the state of California, no matter where their company may be based.

While this new amendment benefits the consumer greatly and provides a more convenient and streamlined process for recycling their old mattresses, the same cannot be said for the retailer, especially those ones who operate solely online. All this comes at a cost which the retailer must bear. Brick and mortar stores in California have already been following this law since it was first implemented and for them, this means an even playing field. According to them, they finally won’t be the only ones to suffer a marginal loss.

We have yet to hear from e-commerce retailers on how this affects their business but even before the amendment was put into place two weeks ago, a few removal and disposal companies, such as LoadUp, have already offered cost effective solutions to e-commerce mattress companies essentially acting as the middleman/delivery man/removal service all rolled into one neat package. Utilizing API integration and backed heavily by their tech know-how, they claim to be able to help e-commerce retailers offset potential losses brought about by the new amendment to California’s recycling laws.

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