According to European Bedding Industry Association, up to 30 million mattresses annually reach their end of life and it is estimated that 60% end up in landfill and 40% are incinerated. However, it is reported that almost 85% of their mass can be recycled through proper disassembly.
This best practice deals with the treatment of end of life mattresses; it specifically outlines the steps for their deconstruction, separation and sorting of the different materials by type. Additionally, the supply of the sorted materials to relevant end markets for recycling are briefly described.
Five main technical operations can be identified in a best performing end of life mattress treatment facility:
- feeding and storage: reception (unloading) and dry storage to avoid contamination, sorting by type;
- sanitising: applying chemical or heat treatments for sterilisation;
- filleting: cutting the mattress' outer fabric cover and the binding flanges;
- disassemble and sorting: separating and sorting the different materials by type;
- handling materials: baling processes, product storage as bales, loose material (sorting residues) or in containers (metals), before delivery to downstream processes (e.g. recycling of metals).
Most of the recovered components and materials of mattresses can be recycled and used in the manufacture for other new useful products. In fact, the textile fibre components can be reprocessed into a variety of products including geotextiles, industrial oil filters etc. Likewise, the foam can be reprocessed as carpet underlay, gym mats etc., springs are recycled as metal scrap and clean wood (but not contaminated) can be used in the fabrication of chipboard, mulch or animal bedding.