Most mattress retailers can tell you where the mattress business begins. You borrow money to purchase beds to display on your showroom floor. You sell the beds, buy more, make a nice living and perhaps expand.
Fewer retailers can tell you about the end of the mattress-buying process, about what happens to your old mattress after it has been hauled away from your home. Chances are it’s headed for your community landfill. Ask your landfill operator what he or she thinks about mattresses on their premises and the answer likely won’t be complimentary.
About 15 to 20 million used mattresses end up in U.S. landfills every year, according to the Mattress Recycling Council, where they take up a lot of room. One mattress can occupy 40 cubic feet or more and weigh, on average, 60 to 70 pounds.
Because mattresses are built to resist compression (that back support we crave), they are difficult to compact, and their steel springs can get caught in, and damage, landfill equipment, causing some landfills to require that mattresses be kept separate from other solid waste in the landfill, which causes increased disposal costs for communities.
And all the effort involved in trying to wrestle mattresses into submission can produce air pockets that, once the old bed has absorbed some combination of hazardous materials, can start landfill fires.
Mattresses that don’t make it to a landfill are often discarded on street corners and vacant lots, becoming a breeding ground for all manner of vermin.
Who would have thought that old mattress could be the source of so many potential problems?
At least three states.
California, Connecticut and Rhode Island all passed laws in 2013 making mattress recycling mandatory in their states. California and Connecticut put the laws into effect last year. Rhode Island started in May. The recycling programs, operated by the non-profit Mattress Recycling Council under the name “bye bye mattress,” are funded by small fees collected from consumers during the mattress sale. Residents who want to discard old mattresses without having purchased a new one, may do so at no charge, and may receive a $2 to $3 reimbursement at participating collection sites in those states.
So, what does this have to do with the Columbus area?
Sleep Outfitters is one of the few mattress retailers that voluntarily recycles mattresses. Since 2011, Sleep Outfitters and parent company Innovative Mattress Solutions (iMS) have recycled nearly 94,000 mattresses and box springs. That’s more than 6 million pounds of mattress waste diverted from community landfills.
Customers who purchase new mattress sets and want their old sets removed from their homes, pay a $20 haul-away fee to cover costs of transportation and the recycling process.
And just what is the recycling process?
Mattresses are shipped from Sleep Outfitters’ warehouses to Spring Back Recycling in Nashville, where the mattresses are deconstructed so the materials can be used for new and different purposes. For instance, the wooden frames may become mulch or pellets for wood-burning stoves. If you’ve recently had new carpet installed in your home, or had new insulation blown into the attic, both the carpet padding and insulation could easily have been made from the foam padding and cover material from recycled mattresses.
According to the folks at Spring Back, they are able to recycle more than 90 percent of every mattress and box spring they receive. And, while Spring Back receives old mattresses from various sources (hotels, the military, educational institutions), Sleep Outfitters/iMS is the company’s only retail supplier.
It’s a good partnership and a great story, but it gets better.
Spring Back employs formerly incarcerated men and women in an effort to help them resume a more normal and productive life.
And the whole thing was thought up by a group of college students.
The idea for Spring Back Recycling began in 2010 on the campus of Nashville’s Belmont University, with the school’s local chapter of Enactus (then known as Students In Free Enterprise). Their goal was to develop a “triple bottom line” business, one that would help people, benefit the environment and turn a profit. The manifestation of that goal was Spring Back, which was incorporated as a non-profit 501(c)3 organization in 2012, and won an international competition in the process.
Today, the business that is Spring Back Recycling realizes its triple bottom line objective by offering a disenfranchised segment of society a second chance. It helps renew the planet by reducing trash and repurposing materials for new and different purposes. And the enterprise sustains itself and turns a profit. In addition to the original Nashville location, Spring Back operates recycling facilities in Denver, Tacoma, Wash., Charlotte and Salt Lake City.
At Sleep Outfitters, the mattress business is about something more than sales; it is also about serving people, helping them achieve a better quality of life by sleeping well. Quality sleep is as important as diet and exercise for good health.
It is also about being good neighbors and serving our communities by contributing to their betterment.
When you purchase a mattress from Sleep Outfitters, we know where it came from. And when we haul away your old one, we know exactly where it’s going. You might say, we know the mattress business from beginning to end.
For more information, contact:
Greg McGraw, Territory Sales Manager
Innovative Mattress Solutions (Sleep Outfitters & Mattress Warehouse)
614-436-4115 . firstname.lastname@example.org