WHAT IT MEANS HOW IT WORKS WHY IT MATTERS
BY JULIE A. PALM
Retailers selling mattresses and foundations in three states soon will need to make some changes to the way they operate, as part of those states’ efforts to recycle bed components and reduce the number of mattresses and foundations heading for landfills.
Connecticut, Rhode Island and California passed mattress-recycling legislation in 2013 that will require retailers to collect a small fee on every mattress and foundation they sell. That money then will be used to fund mattress-recycling efforts statewide. To manage the recycling programs, the industry has created the Mattress Recycling Council, a nonprofit organization.
Connecticut’s law is the first to go into effect. That state’s timeline provides a rough idea of what to expect in the other two states. And just because you don’t sell mattresses in those states, don’t think that the move toward state-mandated mattress recycling doesn’t affect you.
Let’s start with the schedule. Connecticut’s law required the mattress industry to submit a plan to the Connecticut Department of Energy & Environmental Protection by July 1, 2014, detailing how MRC will manage the recycling process in that state. Regulators have 90 days to review the plan. Once approved, MRC will have 120 days to implement the program—meaning Connecticut retailers would begin collecting a flat, per-unit fee in early 2015, assuming there are no lengthy delays in the regulatory approval process. Regulators could call for revisions to the plan, which would postpone the process, but to minimize such delays, MRC is actively consulting with regulators in an effort to anticipate as many potential issues as possible before submitting the plan.
The Rhode Island and California laws have similar timelines and processes, but one year later, with plans due to regulators in those states by July 1, 2015, and fee collection expected to begin in early 2016.
Each of the three state laws requires mattress manufacturers to register basic information with MRC—even though they won’t be involved in collecting fees on sales to retail consumers or recycling mattresses directly.
As a practical matter, all retailers selling in Connecticut and Rhode Island also need to register with MRC so they can remit their collected recycling fees, says Chris Hudgins, vice president of government relations and policy for the International Sleep Products Association. Hudgins also serves as vice president of industry and external affairs for MRC.
When it comes to registration requirements, the California law differs from the other two. In that state, the law specifically requires all retailers, manufacturers and renovators to register with MRC.
Mattress manufacturers in Connecticut were required to register by July 1, 2014. Retailers also should begin registering soon, says Mike O’Donnell, MRC program director. Companies in Rhode Island and California must register through MRC by July 1, 2015.
For all three states, registration is done through a secure portal on the MRC website at www.mattressrecyclingcouncil.org. Registration is free and requires companies to provide basic contact information such as company name, address, phone number, etc. Manufacturers will be asked to provide the Universal Registration Number or brand information. Retailers will need to provide contact information to report sales and remit fees for their locations. During the registration process, a company creates a user name and password.
In all three states, retailers are required to collect a small fee on every mattress and foundation unit sold. The fee, which is subject to state sales taxes, must be clearly displayed on each invoice or receipt. Online retailers selling mattresses in these states also must collect the fee.
Subject to regulatory approval, MRC has proposed the recycling fee in Connecticut to be $9 per piece. This fee would apply to each mattress and foundation unit sold in the state, regardless of the piece’s price, size or type. That means the total recycling fee on a two-piece bed set would be $18—$9 for a mattress and $9 for a foundation. The fee is non-negotiable and cannot be waived or reduced by the retailer.
Each of the state recycling laws sets different requirements, which will affect the costs MRC must incur. Likewise, the cost of labor, real estate overhead and other factors relevant to transporting and recycling mattresses will vary from one state to the next. Nevertheless, MRC’s goal is for the fees in all three states to be as similar as possible.
The fee will pay for the cost of recycling mattresses and foundations discarded by consumers, municipalities, retailers and other parties in each state, including related transportation expenses, O’Donnell says. The fee also covers MRC’s overhead and expenses. Consumer education is part of MRC’s duty and costs, as well.
All three state laws allow for the industry and MRC to periodically adjust the fee up or down as needed to reflect the actual cost of running the recycling programs.
“The fee is initially based on a projection of mattress sales in that state and the number of mattresses we anticipate will be recycled through the program,” O’Donnell says. “Once the program is implemented, MRC may periodically raise or lower the fee to make sure the program has sustainable funding for long-term operations.”
As a nonprofit, MRC has an incentive to meet its legal obligations as efficiently as possible and will issue annual reports on its activities, including an analysis of how it spends collected fees, O’Donnell says.
It’s important to keep the recycling fee low, says Ryan Trainer, president of ISPA and MRC. “We want the fee and the fee collection process to be as ‘low burden’ as possible,” he says. “Our goal is to recycle more mattresses without disturbing the flow of sales, to keep the process simple and to maintain a level playing field.”
Retailers in all three states will remit the fees they collect to MRC at regular intervals, similar to how they remit their sales taxes. As previously mentioned, MRC is setting up a secure, online reporting system for retailers to use.
Any sales data that individual mattress retailers provide to MRC will be exempt from disclosure, Hudgins says. The laws, however, require MRC’s annual report to include aggregate sales and fee data in the states.
To monitor compliance of the laws, MRC must submit annual reports detailing its budget, staffing, aggregate fee collection and other information. These public reports will allow state regulators, taxpayers and the industry to monitor MRC’s activities.
At a retailer level, MRC will work with regulators in each state to verify that all retailers are complying with the laws and collecting all appropriate fees.
“It’s important that everyone participates in the program. We need full participation so that we create an equitable playing field among all retailers,” O’Donnell says. “All these programs are self-reporting, but there is an auditing line item in each budget so that we can confirm retailer compliance.”
Getting mattresses recycled
Under all three laws, the fees collected by retailers from consumers will be used to cover the costs of recycling mattresses. MRC will contract with companies in each state to collect, haul and recycle mattresses and foundations. In Connecticut, for instance, there are expected to be two MRC-contracted recyclers when the recycling program begins in early 2015.
“In Connecticut, MRC also will establish relationships with municipal transfer stations throughout the state to consolidate the mattresses for recycling by the contracted recycling companies. As a result, recyclers will source a fair number of mattresses and foundations through the state’s existing solid waste systems,” O’Donnell says. “Other pieces will come through retailers who pick up old bedding when delivering new mattress sets.”
But, O’Donnell emphasizes, “Retailers in Connecticut and Rhode Island aren’t required to recycle or even collect mattresses themselves.” In California, however, retailers that deliver a new mattress to a consumer must, at the consumer’s request, pick up the old mattress. Retailers can charge for delivery, but not for used-mattress removal. Even in California, retailers aren’t required to actually recycle the mattresses, and they have no obligation to pick up a used mattress if they don’t deliver a new mattress to the consumer or deliver via common carrier.
Still, MRC encourages retailers and manufacturers to actively participate in mattress recycling. It reduces the number of bed sets going to landfills and enhances the industry’s reputation as good stewards of the environment.
“We want companies to recycle and are prepared to work with them to make that happen,” Trainer says.
One retailer already heavily committed to recycling on its own is Sleep Train and its Mattress Discounters and Got Sleep? subsidiaries.
More than 175 stores participate in the company-sponsored recycling program in California and between 65% and 70% of consumers take advantage of the free pickup and removal service. The used bedding is returned to one of five distribution centers in California and then is picked up by one of six Sleep Train regional recycling partners.
“The program has really just evolved over the years to find the best way to keep mattresses out of the landfills, while minimizing our costs,” says Mike Combest, Sleep Train’s executive vice president of operations.
ISPA, which actively monitors any legislation at the federal and state levels that could affect the mattress industry, expects other states to consider mattress-recycling legislation in 2015, Hudgins says. Although ISPA is not proactively seeking to enact recycling laws in other states, it’s prepared to work with stakeholders to create recycling systems that don’t unduly burden the mattress industry, Trainer says.
And, as programs in Connecticut, Rhode Island and California continue to develop, MRC encourages retailers, manufacturers, suppliers and recyclers to offer suggestions and contribute ideas for improvement.
“We want to reiterate that, while everyone has a different role in this process, we want stakeholders to weigh in and provide feedback to MRC so that the programs we develop are the most practical and least expensive for everyone involved,” Hudgins says.
In terms of publicizing and explaining the programs to retailers and consumers, MRC is developing webinars, point-of-purchase materials and other items to educate retailers and consumers about participating in the new programs. All will be available from MRC or posted on its website at www.mattressrecyclingcouncil.org.
“We are talking to retailers about the best way to explain the program requirements to sales associates and their customers. We’re asking for a lot of input,” says Shelly Sullivan, MRC public relations consultant. One plan, Sullivan says, is “to include regular retailer surveys in Sleep Savvy. We want to use these surveys both to inform retailers about the mattress-recycling programs and to identify subjects that will require further attention.”
For these state programs to be most successful, all parts of the industry must work together. Manufacturers can help retailers educate consumers about the new fees, and suppliers can help to create new markets and uses for recycled components, Trainer says.
“We want to work with the retailers to make the mattress-recycling fee and programs positive,” he says. “We, as an industry, have a good story to tell about mattress recycling and the environment. Recycling keeps mattresses out of the landfills and off the roadsides.”
What is the Mattress Recycling Council?
The Mattress Recycling Council is a nonprofit organization established by the mattress industry to create and manage state-level recycling programs. Using fees that retailers collect from consumers, MRC contracts with service providers to collect and recycle mattresses.
Mike O’Donnell, MRC program director, was hired last fall to run MRC. He has spent two decades working on municipal hazardous household waste collection issues and was involved in PaintCare, a multistate paint recycling program, and a Product Care light bulb recycling initiative in Washington.
“MRC will set up and facilitate the recycling programs. We won’t recycle the mattresses ourselves. We will contract that function out,” O’Donnell says. “Our job is also to listen to stakeholders to provide effective programs at the lowest cost.”
MRC’s website at www.mattressrecyclingcouncil.org is a good source for the latest information about mattress recycling. Eventually, it also will contain a list of contracted recyclers in the three states with recycling laws (currently California, Connecticut and Rhode Island), portals where companies register and where retailers remit recycling fees, and materials retailers can use to educate consumers about the fees and the value of mattress recycling.
If you have specific questions about industry recycling efforts, email email@example.com.
- 35 to 40 million new mattresses and foundations are sold annually in the United States.
- At least 15 to 20 million mattresses and foundations are discarded annually in the United States.
- Discarded mattresses currently are sent to recyclers, landfills and incinerators, used furniture stores and charities, and renovators.
Where the parts & pieces go
The typical mattress and foundation are made with a number of natural, renewable and recycled materials. When beds reach the end of their useful lives, they can be broken down and virtually all of their components recycled into other products.
Updating your store systems
Collecting the recycling fee on each mattress and foundation sold will require retailers that sell mattresses to customers in California, Connecticut and Rhode Island to make changes to operations and record-keeping in various departments. Here are items store owners, store managers and department managers need to put on their to-do lists:
- IT: Modify transaction-invoicing systems to itemize and collect the recycling fee on the correct number of units in each sale. (Remember that the fee is subject to sales taxes.)
- Accounting & finance: Implement processes to remit the fee electronically to the Mattress Recycling Council.
- Sales: Develop messaging and train staff to explain the fee to consumers. MRC is creating point-of-purchase and other materials retailers can use to help educate sales associates and consumers.
- Transportation: Retailers who want to voluntarily participate in MRC’s state recycling programs will need to set up a system for getting mattresses to MRC-contracted recyclers. MRC and recyclers will provide more information about this as program implementation dates near.
- Marketing: Create advertising and marketing materials to publicize your participation in the recycling program to consumers.
Why do these laws matter to me?
If you’re a retailer who doesn’t sell beds in California, Connecticut or Rhode Island, you may be wondering, “Why does it really matter?”
In recent years, several other states have expressed interest in mattress-recycling legislation and the International Sleep Products Association expects at least a few states to draft or introduce bills in 2015.
“While these mattress-recycling laws may not affect you at this time, other states are considering similar laws, and we expect the number of state recycling laws could grow in time. The three existing laws will most likely serve as models for what other states do, and the programs that MRC is developing now to implement the existing laws will influence how future state recycling laws will work in practice. Now is the time to get familiar with the process and speak up if you see problems or have ideas on how to do things more efficiently,” says Chris Hudgins, vice president of government relations and policy for ISPA. Hudgins also is vice president of industry and external affairs for the Mattress Recycling Council.
Retailers should stay in contact with ISPA, MRC and lawmakers in their states regarding potential mattress-recycling legislation.
“We want retailers to be aware of legislative developments in their states,” says ISPA and MRC President Ryan Trainer. “Retailers and manufacturers can be an ‘early warning’ system to alert the industry that mattress-recycling legislation may be introduced soon in their states. The sooner they let ISPA and MRC know, the sooner we can begin working to develop and shape the laws so they don’t unduly burden the industry.”
In addition, mattress recycling—regardless of whether it is state-mandated or not—is good for the environment and can help your business build goodwill with your consumers. ISPA maintains a list of mattress recyclers that operate in the United States and Canada on its website at www.sleepproducts.org. Click the Sustainability button and then use the Recycling Facility Locator. Contact a recycler in your area and see what you can do to begin recycling your customers’ old mattresses.
Tell us what you think
What do you think of mattress recycling? Of the new laws in California, Connecticut and Rhode Island? What’s your understanding of the process? Share your thoughts, impressions, concerns and anxieties by taking Sleep Savvy’s exclusive reader poll at www.sleepsavvymagazine.com. We’ll share the survey results in upcoming issues.
To learn more
For the latest information about mattress recycling, bookmark the Mattress Recycling Council’s website at www.mattressrecyclingcouncil.org and check it often. If you have specific questions, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Sleep Savvy also offers regular updates about recycling in the print magazine and online at www.sleepsavvymagazine.com.
Julie A. Palm is a writer and editor based in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. She can be reached at email@example.com.