Ask Eartha: Give new life to an old mattress
High Country Conservation Center
My 10-year-old mattress has lost its bounce. I’m planning to replace it, but then what do I do? Does it end up in the landfill?
— Sydney, Breckenridge
As of this week, free mattress recycling is available in Summit County. Read on to learn how this program evolved and where to haul that floppy, old bed.
The mattress conundrum
We all sleep on mattresses. Yet mattresses aren’t designed to last forever. Depending on several factors, including the quality and type of mattress you buy as well as your sleep style and weight, most beds last about 8-10 years before the inner structure starts to wear out. Every year, Americans throw away nearly 20 million mattresses, most of which are either landfilled or incinerated.
Before this week, getting rid of a mattress in Summit County meant hauling it to the landfill. But mattresses are not ideal landfill material. Remember, in a landfill, the goal is to compact the waste as much as possible to preserve limited space. Mattresses, however, take up a lot of space and are difficult to compress. In addition, if mattress springs break loose from their cottony confines, they can jam landfill equipment. Safe to say, mattresses are a nuisance.
A handful of states have been building mattress recycling programs since the mid-2000s, but in Colorado, we didn’t have an option for mattress recycling until just a few years ago.
Springing back to life
Enter Spring Back Colorado, a mattress recycler on the Front Range. When it first opened in 2012, it could process about 50 mattresses a month. Quickly, demand for mattress recycling grew, and the business received state grants to help it scale up and expand its service territory. Now, it can recycle 5,800 mattresses a month.
A new partnership between Summit County and Spring Back Colorado means you can take your worn-out bed to the Summit County Resource Allocation Park and recycle it for free. The mattresses will be transported to Denver for processing.
What are the details? Free mattress recycling is available for residents and businesses. Howto recycle depends on the number you have:
- Up to six mattresses: Drop off from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays at the Resource Allocation Park, 639 Summit County Road 66, Dillon.
- Seven to 20 mattresses: Call 970-468-9263 to schedule a drop-off time and date.
- More than 20 mattresses: Call 970-468-9263 to schedule a pickup with Spring Back Colorado.
Residents can recycle clean and dry, non-mechanical mattresses. Box springs, mechanical or adjustable beds, and stained or wet mattresses cannot be recycled. When you recycle your mattress, you’ll need to show proof of residency, homeownership or doing business in the county.
Sweet dreams of new beginnings
Turns out, almost 90% of the stuff that makes up your mattress can be recycled or repurposed. So what happens to your mattress once you’ve dropped it off? Spring Back Colorado’s employees tear apart the mattress and sort the material into categories. Springs, foam, textiles and wood are then sold to buyers who recycle these components into new products like carpet pads, wall insulation, mulch, industrial filters, even dog beds and new human mattresses.
Recycling just one mattress saves as much as 40 cubic feet of landfill space. Even better, mattress recycling in Colorado provides jobs to disenfranchised individuals who face barriers to employment. Working for Spring Back, these employees are able to reestablish their careers with good paying jobs.
Who do you have to thank for this new program? Yourself! Last November, Summit County voters passed the Strong Future ballot initiative, which provided funding for several community programs, including recycling. Thanks to avid community recyclers across the county, we now have free mattress and food scrap recycling, carton recycling at the Breckenridge and Frisco recycling centers, and glass collection sites popping up all over the place. For more information about these exciting new programs, check out the High Country Conservation Center’s website at highcountryconservation.org.
Ask Eartha Steward is written by the staff at the High Country Conservation Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to waste reduction and resource conservation. Submit questions to Eartha at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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