The National Bed Federation (NBF), which represents the bed industry across the UK, is calling on the Government to support its plans for a nationwide programme to fund a service enabling everyone to recycle their used mattresses.
Around 4.75 million mattresses every year end up in landfill or are incinerated in the UK, that’s equivalent to an area almost four times the size of the City of London and enough to fill Wembley Stadium twice or the Royal Albert Hall 22 times.
While some parts of the country are well-equipped with facilities to recycle end-of-life mattresses, either at the local household waste recycling centre or via a household collection service, many are not, with the fragmented system amounting to a postcode lottery.
Last September, the NBF’s fourth report on the rate of mattress recycling in the UK showed that while the number of mattresses being sent for recycling between 2014 and 2022 had more than doubled to 24%, the ‘real’ rate of recycling – the fate of the mattresses or their components and materials after sorting and processing – was lower at an estimated 14%. The NBF has a target of 75% diversion from landfill by 2028.
“In the current economic climate, with so many pressures on local government budgets, it is not surprising that mattress recycling provision is so patchy across the UK. However, given the ever-growing concern about global warming and increasing demand from consumers for sustainable options, we believe that the Government should move towards implementing a national mattress recycling service as a priority,” comments Jessica Alexander of the National Bed Federation.
The NBF, which last year launched an industry-wide ‘Pledge for Our Planet,’ has seen the number of signatories from its bed company members more than double in the last 12 months. These businesses have committed to coming together to take steps that will address global environmental damage at both a company and product-level to reverse these trends. The Pledge includes progressive targets for halving greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and achieving net zero by 2050, in line with the Science-Based Targets Initiative.
“While many of our members are on a sustainability journey, working to find ways of operating in a more environmentally friendly way and developing products which re-use materials or can be recycled, it is still a real worry that so many mattresses end up in landfill. We have been actively supporting the development of the Register of Approved Mattress Recyclers (RAMR) which is now up and running, with the aim of helping to ensure that the 1.5m mattresses a year which are currently diverted from landfill are recycled in a responsible way. RAMR will help local authorities, public bodies and businesses wishing to dispose of used mattresses to identify responsible, reputable operators with whom they can work,” explains Alexander.
“Given their size and mix of component materials, mattresses are difficult to dispose of responsibly, and often the public simply does not know what to do for the best when their mattress reaches the end of its life. In the current landscape, we advise consumers to take the time to find their nearest recycling facility that will strip it down into its parts for reuse, or, alternatively, to organise for a specialist licensed company to come to collect it from their house. Most importantly, beware of people in white vans offering to pick your mattress up for free or at a ‘bargain’ price – these rogue traders may take your old mattress and stuff it into a new cover to re-sell or dump it at the roadside!
“Our industry is offering leadership to solve this postcode lottery for those wanting to have their old mattress recycled and not dumped in landfill, we are calling on Government to play its part too with a regulative framework giving industry confidence to invest.”