Monday, March 26, 2012

Is It Time For A New Mattress?

FURNITURE TODAY” reports that the International Sleep Products Assn. (ISPA) will propose a federal mattress recycling law to address the growing problem of mattress disposal in landfills. Green Living Tips tells us that “…between 20 and 40 million mattresses are disposed of in the USA alone each year, most ending up in landfill.” The big problem is that the things don’t compress like regular garbage. One answer the problem is recycling, however the ISPA shows only 25 recycling centers exist in the U.S.. There are two in Oregon, one in Eugene and one in Tualatin. Arizona’s recycling center says that 3,000,000 cubic feet of landfill could be saved, if they recycled only 10% of the total mattresses replaced in Arizona every year. 

Right now, when you buy a new mattress, your old mattress is hauled away.  One major mattress retailer said that 15% of used mattresses can be donated but the other 85% are recycled. Green Living adds, “The average queen size mattress weighs about 60 pounds. It contains about six pounds of Polyurethane foam, which can be sent for reuse, chemical recycling, or can be incinerated for energy recovery. The used foam can be turned into carpet underlay or insulation. The wooden frames can be chipped and used as fuel, and the cotton can be used in industrial machinery oil filters and other textile applications. The springs, made from steel, have a high market value as scrap but are difficult to compress.”

The ISPA is considering “…a fee for mattress recovery collected on a mattress sold at retail and remitted to the Mattress Recycling Council (MRC).” The new non-profit, volunteer-led group that would represent the needs of manufacturers, retailers, and consumers with the government charged with setting up a mattress-recycling program.

The other problem of old mattresses is their danger to health.  One retailer told me that a used mattress can weigh up to ten times more than when it was new, because of dust mites, bacteria and bed bugs.

What can you do when it’s time to replace the old mattress?  Ask about the retailer’s recycling policy. Not all retailers recycle.  You can also make better-informed choices. “Look for mattresses made from materials such as Forest Stewardship Council certified wood frames, natural latex cores, wool, bamboo, hemp and organic cotton. If you have your heart set on a spring mattress, try to locate one that uses recycled steel for the springs. The use of components such as wool also removes the need for chemical fire retardants to be used.”  In addition natural fibers wick moisture into the air rather than provide a breeding ground for dust mites.  Some even say that there’s an energy in healthy wool that operates positively on your body.
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