Updated: Jan 5
Mattresses don't belong in landfills.
The average mattress takes up 40 cubic feet. With Americans disposing of roughly 15 to 20 million mattresses annually, mattresses take up 132,000 square miles of landfill each year.
When you buy a new mattress, your old one has to go somewhere. There are options for old mattresses that go beyond the landfill. You can donate or recycle your bed, or even reuse materials from the mattress.
Why Keeping Mattresses Out of the Landfill is Key
A large household item, mattresses take up a lot of room in landfills. That alone is a problem, but processing them in landfills is an issue as well.
Landfills use trash compactors to minimize the space occupied by trash brought into the landfill. But mattresses don't compact well, and sometimes, mattress springs pop out and cause damage to the equipment.
At many landfills, you'll pay higher fees for dropping off a mattress. They are typically classified as special waste with a higher fee than other types of trash.
Donate Your Mattress
If your mattress is still in good shape, the most useful way to repurpsoe it is by donating it. Although a mattress that's been used for seven to eight years may be past its prime, beds that are newer and still in usable condition can be donated.
Consider donating your old mattress to friends, family, or local charities. Check with Goodwill, Salvation Army, and Habitat for Humanity, as they may accept used mattresses in good condition. It's also a good idea to check with furniture banks, local shelters, thrift stores, and buy nothing groups.
Reusing Your Mattress
If your mattress is worn out, or you can't find a place to donate it, consider breaking it down and reusing the materials. Mattresses are full of valuable, usable materials including steel springs, wood, foam, and textiles.
In the average innerspring mattress, you can reuse about 25 pounds of steel. Steel springs are useful and can be repurposed for household projects or crafts. Even if you don't need for steel springs, it's a good idea to break them down and bring them to a metal recycler, where you can sell them for cash.
The wood on a mattress can be repurposed around the house. Consider creating garden beds with the rails, or break the wood down into mulch or firewood.
Foam mattresses can be reused to create plush pet bedding and other items, such as pillows and cushions.
Other items that can be reused include textiles, nails, screws, buttons, braiding, and other decorative features.
Mattress Recycling Options
If you can't donate your mattress or reuse mattress materials, it is possible to recycle your mattress. When you recycle your mattress, the recycler will break it down and pull out the valuable materials, including steel, wood, foam, and natural fibers, and repurpose them. Approximately 80 to 90 percent of the components in mattresses can be recycled into new products.
Recycling centers typically accept all mattresses for recycling, including broken, saggy, or torn mattresses. They generally do have some restrictions on mattress condition, however. If your mattress is wet, stained, or infested with bed bugs, it may not be accepted.
You will typically pay a fee to recycle your mattress. If you drop it off, most recycling centers will charge between $10 to $20. If the center picks up your mattress, you'll typically pay between $20 to $40.
If you're not able to locate a mattress recycler in your area, you may be able to find options with a local junk removal service. Junk removal services will remove your mattress, and may recycle or donate your used mattress instead of taking it to the landfill.
Rick Blanchard is an expert on sleep product materials and manufacturing for BestMattressReviews.com. His research covers the entire life cycle of mattresses and bedding, including production, wear over time, and disposal. Rick lives in Tarrytown, New York.