Many of us are all too familiar with the sight of old mattresses disposed on the side of the street. Confusion around what to do with these items when they reach the end of their useful life, or even when just upgrading to a new mattress, has created a massive waste problem. Over 1 million mattresses are landfilled in Australia each year, despite the fact that most of their materials are recoverable.
The Australian Bedding Stewardship Council (ABSC) hope to solve this problem and create a circular economy for mattresses in Australia. ABSC is one of several product stewardship projects that received grant funding through the federal government's 2020 National Product Stewardship Investment Fund. These funds have been used to establish a program that works with supply chain, manufacturers, retailers and recyclers to improve mattress recovery rates.
"The Australian Bedding Stewardship Council is an industry-driven initiative established to take a life-cycle approach to sustainability for bedding products," the project website explains.
"ABSC is working closely with government and industry to deliver a range of sustainable design, waste to landfill reduction and circular economy projects. These aim to reduce the environmental impact of end-of-life mattresses on Australian communities by moving towards a circular economy."
The first stage of the project is the launch of the Recycle My Mattress website, which connects consumers with recycling options and brands that support product stewardship. On the website, consumers can purchase new mattresses from participating retailers that will collect their old mattress free of charge. For those who don't wish to purchase a new mattress, the website redirects users to mattress recycler Soft Landing to book a pick-up.
Soft Landing recycles 75 per cent of mattress components — foam cores become carpet underlay, steel springs are used to make new products like roof sheeting and timber is turned into weed matting and mulch. The social enterprise also employs people who have experienced systemic disadvantage and discrimination such as newly arrived refugees.
The ABSC aims to improve mattress recyclability even more by working on the product and supply chain design of these items. This life-cycle approach — which identifies impacts and improvements of products across their entire lifespan, from raw materials to disposal — can help us move towards a circular economy for mattresses.