Mattress target set to be missed despite recycling increase

The level of mattress recycling jumped by more than a quarter in the past four years, but industry targets on diversion from landfill look set to be missed.

The 2022 End of Life Mattress Report, produced on behalf of the National Bed Federation by environmental consultant Oakdene Hollins, shows that the rate of mattresses sent for recycling increased from 19% in 2017 to 24% in 2021, with about 6.4milion mattresses reaching end of life.

In 2012 10% of mattresses were sent for recycling.

However, the reports warns that while some mattresses recyclers are achieving high rates of real recycling and demonstrating best practice and the potential capabilities of the sector, others are focusing only on recovering springs. This, the report says, brings the ’real’ rate of recycling to 14% (there are no historical comparisons).

This means that as the most common method of managing the 76% of end of life mattresses not going for recycling is still landfill, the NBF’s target of 75% diversion from landfill by 2028 looks set to be missed without significant intervention in the form of an extended producer responsibility scheme (EPRS).

‘The positive take from this new report is that, in the eight years since we have been looking at the data, the proportion of end of life mattresses sent for recycling has more than doubled – from just 10% to around 24%. Less good news is that the real rate of recycling is significantly lower and we are still a long way short of our target of 75% diversion from landfill in the next six years. It is clear to us that intervention in the form of an extended producer responsibility scheme is required,’ says Simon Spinks, Harrison Spinks Group chairman and NBF circular economy committee chairman.

The report looks to identify the opportunities and challenges involved in accelerating the pace of change to achieve the NBF’s 75% diversion from landfill goal in the next six years. Based on detailed analysis of published data plus surveys and interviews carried out with local authorities, manufacturers, retailers and recyclers, the report identifies key areas for improvement include collection, reprocessing, developing end markets for recovered materials and designing with end of life in mind.

The report also aims to show how an EPRS would facilitate a more comprehensive and harmonised approach to the management of mattress end of life, providing the revenue and incentives to develop the collection and reprocessing infrastructure, achieve a more environmentally sound treatment of collected products and increased material recovery rates for all materials, and drive product design improvements.

In the report, collection of end of life mattresses was deemed one of the most crucial areas to be addressed. Although take back schemes operated by retailers have seen, and are expected, to continue to grow, the bulk of end of life mattresses are handled by local authorities. The performance of these around the country remains haphazard, with the lack of incentives to recycle mattresses frequently cited.

A third area the report addresses is how manufacturers can improve end of life fates by designing their new products with increased circularity in mind – for, example by using more recycled materials and designing for ease of assembly.

The report can be downloaded from the NBF’s website.

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