Law Keeps Mattresses Out of Landfills

Courtesy photo    Mattress recyclers with DR3 can get value from what others consider trash. Do the right thing and recycle used mattresses.

Last September, for the second year, the City of Alameda invited residents to turn in old mattresses and box springs at its hazardous-waste drop-off day at Alameda Point. The city’s Public Works Department oversaw the event, while the Mattress Recycling Council (MRC) managed and paid for the mattress recycling. MRC is a nonprofit created to develop and implement statewide mattress recycling programs in California, Connecticut and Rhode Island.

In 2015 Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation that aims to keep used mattresses and box springs out of California’s landfills. The law requires all mattress retailers doing business in California to add a $10.50 fee to each mattress it sells. This money pays for a program run by the MRC and its Bye Bye Mattress program. 

Instead of sending mattresses, about 95 in all, directly to the landfill, recyclers dismantled and separated the steel, foam, fabric and wood for reuse. Manufacturers used the steel in the mattresses to manufacture items like appliances. The fabric found new life in oil filters; the carpet industry put the to foam to use as underlay; and the wood found new life as a fuel source or was shredded into mulch.

The now four-year-old law offers Californians three options: 

  • Mattress retailers must offer to remove  used mattresses when they deliver new ones. 
  • Alameda County Industries (ACI) offers curb -side pickup. The company will either work with MRC to  recycle the mattresses or dispose of soiled mattresses as solid waste. 
  • Residents and businesses can drop off their mattresses at recycling facilities.

The law allows retailers, ACI and recycling facilities to deem used mattresses as “unacceptable” if they a pose health or safety hazard. These include wet or heavily soiled mattresses or any infested with bedbugs.

MRC works closely with organizations like Habitat for Humanity. Alamedans can drop off up to four mattresses with their box springs at Habitat’s ReStore without making an appointment. The facility is located at 9235 San Leandro St. in Oakland and is open from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday to Saturday. The public will receive a stipend of $3 for each mattress and box spring set dropped off. 
ReStore requires an appointment to drop off five or more mattresses. To schedule an appointment, call 510-803-3350.

Habitat will not accept mattress pads, toppers, pillows, sleeping bags, sofa beds and futons. Habitat also will not accept any collapsible roll-away beds, water beds or air mattresses.
Habitat turns the mattresses it receives over to DR3, a company with 20 years recycling experience. Over time, DR3 has recycled more than 1 million mattresses. Rather than simply shredding the mattresses, DR3 deconstructs them by hand. This has helped divert tens of millions of pounds of fabric, foam, steel and wood from the landfill. 

DR3 works hand-in-glove with MRC and its Bye Bye Mattress program. The recycler also operates under the umbrella of the nonprofit St. Vincent de Paul and the money it receives  from mattress recycling helps pay for services for homeless individuals and families in need, a far cry from how people once tossed all mattresses into the landfill.