24th August 2023

The Circular Economy Approach to Mattress Recycling

By TFRG Team

Every year in the UK, 7.5 million mattresses go to landfill. This bulky waste stream is taking up valuable space which is already under immense pressure.

However there is a solution – a circular economy approach, designed to minimise waste while promoting sustainability, through the emphasis of continuous use, recycling and regeneration of resources.

Applying a circular economy approach to mattress recycling is an effective initiative that promotes both the mattresses and materials within them being kept in use for as long as possible across multiple different sectors therefore maximising their value and minimising environmental impact.

What is a Circular Economy?

In short, a circular economy is the practice of creating a product that can hold value beyond its original purpose, whether it can be recycled or rejuvenated to ensure the life cycle goes on and on.

In the context of mattress recycling, a circular economy model can be applied in various different ways. For example, mattresses returned by consumers under comfort night guarantees may be suitable for rejuvenation and resale, while mattresses at the end of their life can be recycled into their component parts and re-distributed for use in different sectors. Either way, materials are diverted from landfill and put back into use in the wider economy.

Circular Economy approach in Mattress Recycling

Design for Disassembly

One of the most significant issues in terms of mattress disposal is the challenge of breaking a mattress down into its key components. With up to 19 component parts included in one mattress, it can be a time consuming task, requiring a trained eye to differentiate between the different materials, putting many people off from the start.

To establish a circular economy model in mattress recycling, it is essential to begin by designing mattresses with easily separable components that can be put back into use, with end of life at the forefront of the process.

Consequently, valuable materials can be effortlessly sorted and recovered for further processing, reducing the waste generated and ensuring that resources are returned to use as part of the circular economy.

Material Recovery

A crucial stage of mattress recycling lies in material recovery. During this stage, mattresses are broken down into their key components and distributed across multiple sectors. By extracting valuable materials like foams, springs, textiles, and metals, multiple sectors from fashion to construction can benefit from a new stream of resources – the very definition of the circular economy.

A resulting reduction in virgin resource extraction, production and consumption contributes to conserving natural reserves, while also minimising the associated environmental impact.

Ultimately, by adopting circular economy principles within mattress recycling, businesses can contribute to a more sustainable future while consistently enjoying economic benefits. By diverting these materials away from landfills, reusing recycled materials and reducing reliance on virgin resources, manufacturers can achieve cost savings, enhance their brand reputation, and foster strategic collaborations.

Product Life Extension

Every single year, retailers face £60 billion in losses due to returns through their comfort guarantee. When applying a circular economy model, a considerable number of these mattresses can be rejuvenated. This approach extends the product’s life cycle to avoid premature material recovery.

For example, our innovative rejuvenation process involves thorough inspection, cleaning, and sanitisation of customer-returned mattresses to ensure they can be re-sold. The end result is that comfort guarantee mattresses are given a new lease of life, reducing their chances of ending up in landfills prematurely.

Utilising our bespoke, in-house system, we capture detailed data for each refurbished mattress, ensuring a comprehensive audit trail. This gives our customers complete transparency of the entire rejuvenation process. Our approach not only prevents unnecessary loss, but also provides retailers with the opportunity to retain asset value through informed decision-making based on the captured data.

Circular Recommerce

In the broader landscape of the circular economy, the recommerce system reintroduces rejuvenated mattresses and salvaged materials back into the supply chain across multiple sectors.

While we specialise in the rejuvenation of mattresses, the subsequent reintroduction of these products into the market – or ‘recommerce’ – is typically managed by the businesses themselves. This model offers these businesses an avenue to prevent unnecessary losses and convert potential waste into a resource.

By fulfilling the demand for preloved mattresses, companies can embrace a more sustainable and environmentally conscious approach, while also driving economic growth through the circular economy model.

The model continues both within mattress recycling and extending outwards to industries that make use of salvaged components.

Implementing Circular Mattress Recycling

Embracing a circular economy approach is key to revolutionising mattress recycling and creating a more sustainable future.

By reclaiming valuable materials, reducing waste, and promoting resource conservation, we can significantly minimise the environmental impact of mattress disposal.

Retailers should consider working with knowledgeable partners to support them in their approach to sustainable mattress disposal. At The Furniture Recycling Group, we can support the entire process, end-to-end, from logistics right through to rejuvenation or recycling. We can also work with manufacturers to advise on the best approach to design and production to ensure future sustainability.

The Furniture Recycling Group CEO and Founder, Nick Oettinger has decades of experience and knowledge on implementing circular economy principles and has helped a range of businesses to achieve their sustainability goals. Get in touch today to find out how we can support your business on its sustainability journey.

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