California passes mattress recycling bill

| July 31, 2013

California’s wide-ranging list of recyclables is getting more comprehensive with the introduction of mattresses. In May, the California State Senate passed a bill that will contribute to the Used Mattress Recovery and Recycling Act. Since then, it has undergone amendments on its way to making a big difference in mattress recycling.

The bill authorizes a qualified mattress industry association to establish a mattress recycling organization. This nonprofit organization will then develop a state plan for recycling used mattresses and ensure compliance by manufacturers and retailers.

A single mattress can occupy up to 23 cubic of space in landfills.

Without recycling laws in place, mattresses often end up discarded on the side of the road. Image by Alan Stanton.

Mattress recycling is a welcome addition to California’s recycling laws. At the end of their useful life, most mattresses end up in landfills. Some used mattresses are also illegally dumped or refurbished by companies who sell them to unsuspecting consumers in an unhygienic and dishonest manner.

How the program will work

To fund this initiative, a small fee will be included in the price of new mattresses and box springs. This is “akin to California’s paint recycling program,” said Shelly Sullivan a representative for Californians for Mattress Recycling. “It’s good common sense legislation that helps Californians improve their recycling performance.”

Retailers will be required to provide free pick up of used mattress when customers purchase new mattresses. The mattress recycling organization would reimburse retailers for this service.

Additionally, under this law, retailers would have a financial incentive to send used mattresses to mattress recyclers. This program, as mattress manufacturer Eric Slagle points out, will “complement” the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery’s (CalRecycle) Recycling Market Development Zone (RMDZ) program. Under RMDZ, firms that use recycled materials to manufacture new products are eligible for low-interest loans and technical assistance.

Great potential for mattress recycling

Recycling Sign

View this sign RecycleReminders.

Together, these programs can reduce mattress dumping in landfills, where a single mattress can occupy 23 cubic feet of space. According to a study from the University of California, Santa Barbara,  85 percent of mattresses can be easily recycled. However, under five percent of the 4.2 million mattresses and box springs discarded in California each year actually make it to recycling centers. If all these mattresses were recycled, an estimated 1,000 jobs would be generated.

Hopefully, the new bill will be a step in this direction. If successful, by July 1 of next year, retailers would need to give consumers the option to have their used mattresses picked up for free. The date is also the deadline for the mattress recycling organization to develop and implement its mattress recycling program.

By January 1, 2015, retailers and manufacturers would have to register with the mattress recycling organization. From this date forward, it would be illegal for retailers or manufacturers to do business in California without following the bill’s conditions.

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Category: Recycling programs, Regulations

About the Author ()

A graduate in English Literature from St. Stephen’s College, Delhi, India, Nupur also has an MBA from the Faculty of Management Studies, Delhi University. Nupur is currently trying to be as savvy a cook as she is with a book. She likes watching plays and sunsets. Nupur first lived in Kolkata and then for a decade in Delhi, still her favorite city.

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