Pulling back the covers

Mattresses can be a nuisance when you don’t want them anymore. They are heavy, bulky and made from materials that have little value after their first use. At best, the materials in an old mattress might be worth £10.  Nevertheless, with a 55% increase between 2015 and 2017, the mattress recycling sector in the UK seems to have sprung into action.

Our third report for the National Bed Federation has just been published here. It reveals the number and type of mattresses bought for bedrooms around the UK, and what happens to them when they are too tired to go on. Seven of the thirteen mattress recyclers contributing to our market analysis have expanded (or are planning to expand) their business.

Whilst it’s good to discover more recycling going on, the performance is a long way short of the new NBF target of 75% by 2028. Mattresses are difficult to take apart and the number of different materials being used by manufacturers is still growing – that makes it more costly for the recyclers to separate them. Imagine trying to separate polyester from wool, polyurethane foam from steel springs. To meet the 75% target, we recommend adopting new industry specific eco-design principles, designing an Extended Producer Responsibility Scheme (EPR) and increasing transparency and accountability. Even small changes, such as banning the use of stapling, will help when our new beds are being discarded over the next decade – and sent to specialist recyclers.

If you would like to know more about how to improve the design of products for the circular economy, or simply hear about how the bed industry wants you to sleep easier as the world warms, please contact nia.bell@oakdenehollins.com. 

Jake Harding