MRC to Boost Mattress Recycling Rate

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Many materials from discarded mattresses, such as steel springs and polyurethane foam, can be readily recycled, but most cotton and coconut fiber used in some mattresses is unfortunately landfilled because there are no efficient uses for them — until now.

The finished product – A compost blend consisting of yard waste, cotton and coconut fibers extracted from recycled mattresses.
The finished product – A compost blend consisting of yard waste, cotton and coconut fibers extracted from recycled mattresses.

The Mattress Recycling Council recently completed a pilot project with a commercial composter in Gilroy, California, which found that these materials can be composted with organic yard waste materials to produce compost material for landscapers and other commercial buyers.

MRC recycles more than 1.4 million mattresses per year in California and about 75 percent of the weight of those mattresses can be recycled for other uses. The roughly 25 percent of mattress materials landfilled in California each year include about 1,300 tons of cotton and coconut fibers, materials for which there is no commercial demand.

To reduce the number of materials that it landfills, MRC contracted with GreenWaste Z-Best Composting Facility in Gilroy in October 2022 to test the feasibility of composting cotton and coconut fiber. At the end of the composting process, no pieces of either fiber were observed in the screened finished product, and laboratory testing indicated it was suitable for resale as a finished compost product.

As a result, this pilot project demonstrates that composting cotton and coconut fiber from discarded mattresses is a viable means for increasing MRC’s recycling rate and reducing the amount of mattress materials landfilled annually.

MRC’s life cycle analysis has documented that mattress recycling reduces greenhouse gas emissions and energy and water consumption. This composting project is one of a series of MRC-funded research projects designed to find new markets for recycled mattress materials, including fibers and textiles. The goal of these projects is to increase both the percentage of each mattress that can be recycled and the environmental benefits of mattress recycling.