We buy our mattresses for comfort and dispose of them for convenience. When it gets too old, it’s easy to just take it to the dump or leave it at the curb. However, mattresses contain a lot of materials and chemicals that make them an environmental hazard when you dispose of them this way.
Since we can all stand to have a better relationship with the environment and keep the earth clean for everyone else, knowing the reasons that mattresses should be disposed of safely and knowing how to do so can keep you from damaging the environment.
Here is a brief guide on the negative effects of throwing away a mattress and what you can do to dispose of your old bed safely.
How throwing away your old mattress negatively affects the environment
Throwing away plastic or cardboard is bad enough. Once it hits the landfill, imagine how long it takes to decompose. Now imagine how long a mattress will take. Mattresses are difficult to compact, which means that they stay in large chunks in the landfills even after they’ve been processed. This gives them plenty of time to hang around and negatively impact the earth around them.
Scientifically, a soft mattress will need a century to completely decompose while a firm mattress probably takes longer than that period. Most mattresses are rotting in the dump for 50 years before they’re gone, which gives the chemicals and materials that compose them that much time to leech into the ground and damage the environment. Formaldehyde, for instance, is a common additive in mattresses that keeps them from catching on fire.
If it gets into the ground, it can get into the water too. Now imagine these problems multiplied by the 15 to 20 million mattresses that are improperly disposed of every year.
The question is: what can you do about it?
Solutions for safely disposing of mattresses
There are a few easy solutions for safely disposing of mattresses that anyone should consider before throwing them away in a conventional landfill and contributing to environmental damage.
Donate the old one
The first thing you should consider doing with an old mattress is giving it to someone else. Obviously, you wouldn’t do this if you were replacing an old or worn-out mattress, but some people get rid of their mattresses for personal preference.
If you’re disposing of a relatively new bed, ask your family and friends if they need one, or contact your local thrift stores and charity drives to see what their acceptance policy is on mattresses.
Recycle the material
If you can’t give the mattress to someone that can use it, consider finding a mattress-specific recycling center that knows how to break down the materials into something that can be recycled.
They usually charge a fee, which is why many people opt to dump them in a landfill. But $20 isn’t a huge price to pay to improve the environment a tiny bit.
So long as the mattress isn’t infested or wet, the base material fabrics and metals can be recycled. Ask your local centers to find one that will take your bed.
Bulk waste collection programs often take large items like mattresses off of people’s hands and these services are usually free (sometimes, they even send someone to pick it up). Dig around and see what your local options are for environmentally-sound mattress disposal centers.
If you can’t find anyone to take your mattress, you can always use it for DIY projects, like crafting or prop-building. The fabric can be used for art projects or repurposed into bedding for a dog. It can even be converted into compost.
The metal parts can be sold separately to a scrapyard or used for other kinds of art projects. The wood can be burned in a fireplace and the nails and screws can be reused if you take them out carefully.
With a little handiness, most mattress materials can be reused. Depending on how resourceful and creative you are, there’s a lot of material there that can be useful in other projects or sold separately for a little cash.
It’s important to look at a mattress’s certification to see if it’s made of biodegradable materials. Most are not, and as a result they can damage the environment when they decompose. Not only does the metal and fabric break down very slowly, but most mattresses also contain chemicals that make them smell better or stay flame retardant.
Use this guide to figure out where or if you can donate, recycle, or repurpose your old mattress. With a little creativity, you can even use it as a treasure trove of DIY crafting materials. So long as you dispose of it responsibly, you can rest easy knowing that you’re doing all you can to protect your environment.
Interesting related article: “What is the Environment?“