8th August 2023

Innovative technologies in mattress recycling

By TFRG Team

7.5 million mattresses are sent to landfill each year amounting to 167,000 tonnes of bulky waste taking up limited space in UK landfill sites. This waste has a profoundly negative impact on the environment as it produces toxic greenhouse gases.

As many organisations look to the future, new and innovative technologies are allowing sustainability to thrive across a variety of sectors, pioneering a circular future.

Recycling technology

While solutions have existed for some time for recycling bulky goods like mattresses, little notice was paid to the time and complexity of the task. With bulky goods made up of many different materials, there were few alternatives to manually pulling a mattress apart.

Breaking down a mattress

Mattresses that arrive at our facility ready for recycling are put through a waste acceptance procedure and broken down into 19 component parts.

All materials are segregated, processed and thoroughly sanitised, then put through a strict quality control process. The components are then used to manufacture new products in a range of industries, completing the circular economy.

Chemical recycling

Chemical foam mattress recycling has been undertaken since 2013, but has become more popular in recent years across Europe.

The chemicals break down polyurethane foam into its raw materials, which can then be used to make fresh foam for new mattresses and other industries. This technology has been in use at a commercial scale for post-industrial waste but has recently been developed to recycle post-consumer foam mattresses.

Biological Processes

While not a common method, natural solutions have been trialled to break down mattress parts. This involves using bacteria, fungi, or other organisms to decompose these materials into more basic substances, which can then be recycled or disposed of.

With this method, it is worth noting that mattresses cannot be entirely decomposed through natural processes, and some materials will be left to be broken down through alternative routes.

Refurbishing over recycling

Maximising the value of goods and curbing wastage is paramount, especially for items that are barely used, such as mattresses. TFR Group has pioneered a rejuvenation process that is gaining traction with mattress retailers throughout the UK. This process gives a second life to nearly-new mattresses returned under comfort guarantees, providing both environmental and economic benefits.

TFR Group subjects these mattresses to a rigorous inspection and sanitisation process using a unique sanitisation system developed at our facility. This system guarantees that the materials earmarked for manufacturing comply fully with British Standards Institution requirements, transforming “used” into “like-new”.

To maintain transparency and ensure consistent quality, each retailer agrees on a pass/fail criteria for the rejuvenation process. The evaluation results are stored on a specially designed portal, providing real-time, accessible data for all involved parties.

Mattresses that meet the agreed-upon criteria are thoroughly cleaned using our cutting-edge sanitisation system. Employing a combination of biocide fogs, atomised peracetic acids, and UV sterilisation, we ensure that every inch of the mattress is immaculately cleaned.

When a mattress comes with removable covers, these are carefully removed, cleaned, and sanitised to the same standards upheld by the NHS before being reapplied, enhancing the quality of the end product.

Each mattress is assessed by our dedicated team of trained professionals, who meticulously check for any damage, stains, odours, defects and verify the presence of fire labels. Following these checks, the mattresses are fully sanitised, and all covers cleaned.

After an intensive quality assurance check, the rejuvenated mattresses are vacuum-sealed and packed. If desired by the retailer, they can be branded and labelled, primed for resale. This approach not only extends the life of valuable goods but also exemplifies an innovative solution to reducing waste and promoting a more sustainable economy.

If you are looking to introduce a sustainable solution into your business, get in touch today. 

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