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Circular bedding: Are your mattresses keeping you up at night?


The UK threw away more than 7 million mattresses in 2017, the vast majority of which went straight to landfill (National Bed Federation). This number has only risen since. According to The Furniture Recycling Group, Wembley Stadium could be filled 5 times with the number of mattresses that are discarded in the UK every year.

Typically, in domestic households, we change our own mattresses every 8-10 years. However, mattress turnover rates jump up significantly in sectors such as student accommodation, hotels, hospitals and care homes. These organisations manage tens of thousands of beds each, with turnover required on a more frequent, periodic basis (e.g., during summer breaks for student accommodation). Now, consider the number of duvets and pillows that go alongside these mattresses…!

Currently, only about 1 in 7 mattresses are recycled in the UK. Why is that?

Mattresses – A nightmare to recycle

Once a mattress arrives at a recycling facility, it needs to be taken apart, usually by hand, in an extremely labour-intensive procedure:

  • The springs have to be removed manually to be sent for metal recycling.
  • The foam can be recycled to make carpet underlay.
  • At present, the textile material is difficult to recycle and will generally be used as a fuel in energy-to-waste facilities.

All this results in a very high cost when compared to other recycling processes.

There is hope though. The UK isn’t the only nation that has issues with mattresses. Previously in the Netherlands, 1.5 million mattresses were discarded on an annual basis, most ending up in landfill. The situation has changed hugely in recent years, with an estimated 75% of mattresses now being collected and recycled by expert organisations.

The mattress recycling company RetourMatras recently announced that it handled 1 million mattresses in 2020 alone at 3 of its Dutch locations.

Significant investment has been necessary to develop innovative recycling technologies. With improved collection and dismantling capabilities and new recycling technologies reaching market stage, the Netherlands is clearly at the forefront of mattress recycling.

Mattresses aren’t worth much on the secondary market

If we divert 100% of discarded mattresses, over 30,000 tonnes of materials can been fed back into the economy – equivalent to the height of three Eiffel Towers!

Mattresses components aren’t valued as much, because it has been so difficult to dismantle the truly reusable materials. The Furniture Recycling Group (TFR Group), who are working with UK businesses and local authorities to divert 100% of mattresses processed from landfill, has launched the world’s first, patented, automated pocket spring recycling machine.

After months of researching, testing and patenting, this machine can dismantle and separate the components in the pocket springs of a mattress in just 2.5 minutes.

The impact of this could be huge.

Image credit: TFR Group

Through this new technology, highly useful, recyclable components can be sold on, re-used or recycled, e.g., used in flooring underlay, bulletproof vests, etc., creating a circular economy out of a waste stream that was previously thought to be unmanageable.

If we divert 100% of discarded mattresses, over 30,000 tonnes of materials can been fed back into the economy – equivalent to the height of three Eiffel Towers!

Innovation is key

Whether it is improving the ways mattresses are manufactured, collected and transported, or developing innovative technologies for recycling and repurposing them or bedding related materials, innovation is key to accelerating the solutions to this global environmental nightmare.

Innovation Gateway enable the world’s most ambitious organisations to accelerate their progress to net zero and work alongside them to take action on important issues like mattress recycling and mattress disposal. We do this through actionable programmes and innovative technologies, in collaboration with our trusted network of industry experts, leading-edge solution providers, and sources of finance.

Want to find out how we can help you solve your most wicked challenges? Speak to one of our team members today.

We’d love to hear from you!

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