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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 were 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. This 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. It’s 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. Millions of plastic gloves, face masks and visors are being used by the public, in hospitals and the workplace.

This increase comes at a crucial time when recycling centres across the country were forced to shut down temporarily. Local councils also 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 flytipping, soaring by 300 percent1 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. Over the last few years they’ve accounted for nearly half of the bulky waste in UK landfill sites each year.

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

However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, online ‘bed-in-a-box’ retailers have seen an increase in sales. This is due to many consumers opting 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. This is causing 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 returned within the comfort guarantee trial.

We have partnered with several national online mattress retailers to provide the new service. We 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. The mattresses are then sold to consumers for a reduced rate.

This sustainable solution provides retailers with significant cost savings. It also leads to increased 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.

1.https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2020/04/30/fly-tipping-has-soared-300-per-cent-lockdown-university-analysis/

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