Inside The World of Mattress Recycling

According to local reports, Santa Cruz, CA has seen a 25% increase in recycled mattresses citywide since 2016 thanks to a new bed recycling initiative.

Bye Bye Mattress began operating in the city in 2016 and is run by the Mattress Recycling Council, a non-profit that educates industry professionals on recycling laws and works with local governments to establish mattress recycling programs. The council currently powers programs in California, Connecticut, and Rhode Island, the only three states in the U.S. that have enacted explicit mattress recycling legislation.

To better understand the relationship between the MRC, local governments, and programs such as Bye Bye Mattress, I spoke with a variety of local and national stakeholders.

UNDERSTANDING THE PROBLEM

In California specifically, any and all conversations about mattress recycling must begin with the Used Mattress Recovery & Recycling Act, a law passed by the state in 2013 to force the mattress industry to address and deal with the waste produced by discarded beds and box springs.

The bill was sponsored by non-profit group Californians Against Waste (CAW) and former state senator Loni Hancock, who represented the 9th Senate District in the northern East Bay from 2008-2016.

“Senator Hancock was representing Oakland and noticed that the city had a particularly bad mattress problem,” CAW Policy Analyst Kelly McBee told me. “At the time, the city was collecting between 18-35 illegally dumped mattresses a day, which resulted in half a million dollars spent per year on bed removal. And this was in just one Californian city out of hundreds.”

Indeed, zooming out to the macro level illuminates the rampant spread of the issue, which manifested not just in Sen. Hancock’s district, but all over the state. As Lance Klug—Public Information Officer for California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle)—explained:

“In California, we’ve got nearly 40 million people, which means we’ve got millions of beds that reach the end of their lives in any given year. Before the law, many of these beds were illegally dumped… which was not only a waste of resources and a major eyesore for communities, but also cost the taxpayer a lot of money in cleanup.”
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