18th December 2020

The future of mattress recycling and the circular economy

By TFRG Team

TFRG Founder, Nick Oettinger discusses the future of mattress recycling and the circular economy. 

Mattress recycling in the UK

Did you know more than 7.5m mattresses are sent to landfill each year? This is because landfill is usually the cheapest, quickest and easiest option for mattress disposal. 

But the UK could reach a waste crisis as soon as 2022 if we don’t collectively take action and tackle the bulky waste problem head on. 

While we’re making our mark on the problem, recycling an incredible 450,000 mattresses each year, there is clearly still a lot of work to be done. 

What is circular economy

A circular economy is where products are designed and produced with recycling and end-of-life in mind,  meaning products can be recycled or repurposed over and over again. 

A circular economy is different to a linear economy. In a linear economy, products are designed, produced, used and simply thrown away.

Future of circular economy

In order to achieve a true circular economy, there needs to be a collaborative approach. The design, manufacturing and retail industries need to make significant changes to move away from a linear economy towards sustainable solutions.

We’ve been champions of a circular economy for years, but as a nation, we are becoming more serious about the future of our environment and achieving a circular economy. We’ve seen this through a number of retailers introducing sustainability measures and the government’s introduction of recycling and green initiatives. 

Here are some the upcoming environmental legislation & developments that will help steer the UK closer to achieving a circular economy. 

Environment bill 

Since it was first discussed in October 2019, the environment bill has gradually been making progress through committee debates in the house of commons. It took a backstep as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and only reached parliament once again in October. 

In November, there were calls for the government to incorporate targets into its proposed extended producer responsibility legislation. The suggestion included targets for waste prevention and reuse. 

We’re advocates of circular economy principles. These include factoring in end of use planning in the design stage to prevent waste being generated at the end of its useful life. 

The environment bill marks the first major development in environmental legislation since 2000. We’re glad the government is starting to take the environment seriously, with this bill informing all the key environmental targets and ambitions of the government. However, we do believe the government has missed the opportunity to tackle the bulky waste problem and create sustainable waste management solutions. 

Office for Environmental Protection 

As part of the Environment Bill, the government will also establish the Office for Environmental Protection (OEP). The OEP will be responsible for scrutinising government policy to include the environment and enforcing environmental law. 

The government has selected Dame Glenys Stacey as its preferred candidate to become the Chair of the OEP. 

Future of mattress recycling 

Due to the complexity and intensity of mattress recycling, few companies dedicate the time and resource needed. While other waste industries are making great headway, there are still two main challenges mattress recycling companies face. These are the ability to break down mattresses quickly and cost-effectively, and transporting large quantities in a carbon efficient way. 

The mattress recycling industry is a sector that will hugely benefit from automation. We expect automation to become a big focus in the future and key for helping achieve a circular economy. The bulky waste problem isn’t currently part of the government’s green agenda. However, we do expect investment dedicated to bulky waste over the coming years. 

How we’re overhauling the mattress recycling process 

We’re tackling the bulky waste problem by diverting mattresses from landfill. We launched our ground-breaking research and development programme to support our retail partners and increase the level of mattresses we recycle, refurbish or rejuvenate each week. 

Automation is our key focus within our innovative waste management solutions. Our automated pocket spring recycling machine reduces the recycling process from half a day per mattress to just 2.5 minutes. 

We have designed and patented an automated mattress stripping machine that feeds in a mattress and strips away all the outer materials from the steel frame. This reduces the time taken to strip a mattress by 70 percent. 

We have also developed a mattress compression system. This innovative development will enable a standard 40ft trailer to carry 600 mattresses, instead of just 90. It will not only offer our partners a significant reduction in transportation costs, but also increase the viability of mattress recycling across the country and reduce carbon emissions. 

Comfort guarantee returns is our latest service. We’re working with our retailer partners to rejuvenate bed in a box mattresses returned within the comfort guarantee trial period. We’re increasing retention, by rejuvenating 75% of mattresses that would have previously been recycled. This service also creates a revenue recovery solution for our partners and brands. 

Find out more about our services and partnerships here. 

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