8th October 2020

The impact of COVID-19 on mattress recycling and UK landfill

By TFRG Team

The impact of COVID-19 on mattress recycling and UK landfill

Coronavirus has had an impact on nearly every sector and region across the UK, and none more so than the waste industry. 

At a time when recycling and sustainability was becoming more of a prominent focus across the country, the industry has been put under immense pressure due to the coronavirus pandemic. With a huge spike in waste coupled with the closure of recycling centres and delay in waste services, recycling has taken a back seat, which could have a significant impact on how and what we recycle, as well as the UK’s future landfill capacity.

Landfill waste

The UK has relied on landfill sites for several decades, to house commercial, construction and household waste. With over 200 million tons of waste reaching the 500 landfill sites across the country, each year – landfill capacity is at an all time low.

COVID-19 has had a major impact on the waste sector and its ability to process and recycle the increasing amounts of waste, proving a heavy burden on the almost overwhelmed UK landfill infrastructure. 

The pandemic has also caused a spike in the amount of domestic and medical waste being produced, with millions of plastic gloves, face masks and visors being used by the public, in hospitals and the workplace.

This increase comes at a crucial time when recycling centres across the country have been forced to shut down temporarily and whilst local councils have had to suspend services. During the national lockdown, hundreds of recycling and refuse centres were forced to close for months, or restrict services following government guidelines.

This has caused an increase in widespread fly tipping, soaring by 300 per cent1 in some rural communities across the country. Whilst much of the previously recycled waste has now gone straight to landfill due to the limited services.

Mattress recycling in the UK

Mattresses are classed as bulky waste and over the last few years have accounted for nearly half of the bulky waste finding its way to UK landfill sites each year.

Before the pandemic, over seven million mattresses were sent to landfill per year, which if it continues, could see England’s landfill sites filled by 2022.

However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, online ‘bed in a box’ retailers have seen an increase in sales as many consumers opt to stay at home rather than visit the high street to shop. The recent surge has resulted in a significant increase in the amount of barely used mattresses being returned within the comfort guarantee trial period – a sustainability nightmare and a growing issue for future capacity of the UK’s landfill sites.

Sustainable solutions

As the problem continues to grow at an alarming rate, it’s vital to find a sustainable solution to the increasing waste.

We have developed and implemented groundbreaking technology dedicated to overhauling the recycling process and combat the sustainability issues that the pandemic has created. 

Our latest focus is on refurbishing and rejuvenating the bed in a box foam mattresses that have been returned within the comfort guarantee trial.

We have partnered with several national online mattress retailers to provide the new service and are currently rejuvenating over 700 bed in a box mattresses a week. 

The technique ensures the mattresses go through a stringent refurbishment process so they meet the resale requirements for retailers, before the mattresses are then sold to consumers for a reduced rate.

This sustainable solution provides retailers with significant cost savings, whilst increasing efficiency, by refurbishing 70% of the mattresses that would have previously been recycled. It also ensures that we limit the amount of mattresses ending up in landfill sites across the UK.

Find out more about mattress recycling and rejuvenation.


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