An estimated 40 million mattresses are thrown away each year in the United States — and most go directly to a landfill. Since more than 80% of a mattress can be recycled, that's a lot going to waste.
But not in Duluth.
In 2004, Greg Conkin, Contributed Goods Manager at Duluth’s Goodwill Industries, was approached by MPCA staffer Henry Fisher to help establish Minnesota’s first mattress recycling/processing operation. Greg saw the many benefits of this opportunity for his organization — and the new jobs that came with it.
What's in a mattress?
Once taken apart and sorted, about 82% of a mattress can be recycled. Recyclable materials include:
- 30% metal (usually steel)
- 38% cotton
- 10% foam
- 4% wool shoddy
The remaining 18% percent is synthetic materials that cannot be recycled at this time.
The recyclable materials are sold to make new products. The metal is melted down and made into new steel products. Recovered fiber is used in automotive stuffing and other textiles, and recovered foam is used in insulation or carpet underlayment. Lastly, the wood frames can be chipped and burned as fuel.
The benefits of recycling?
Today, the Goodwill facility in Duluth recycles about 1,300 mattresses each month.
Over the last 13 years, Goodwill has:
- Recovered 196,074 mattresses and box springs in northern and central Minnesota for processing which yielded 3,599.67 tons of recyclable materials returned back into the economy (about 1,300 mattresses are recycled each month).
- Saved 24,564 cubic yards of landfill air space — a value of $1,874,116 — that could be used for future solid waste disposal needs.
- Collaborated with the University of Minnesota-Duluth’s Natural Resources and Research Institute and others to engineer the first horizontal baler for mattress and box spring steel which provided a sustainable market and partnership for scrap steel at Duluth’s ME Global, Inc.
- Provided training and employment for five to seven persons with disabilities who deconstructed mattresses and box springs.
- Enabled the expansion of public mattress collection sites within northern and central Minnesota to 34 sites.
- Provided valuable input to Hennepin County and Second Chance Recycling in Minneapolis to establish mattress and box spring recycling/processing in the metro area in 2008.
Greg and his organization significantly contributed to the growth of a new recycling industry in — and outside of Minnesota during past 13 years.
This pilot program was created by a grant from the Minnesota Office of Environmental Assistance to the Western Lake Superior Sanitary District. The innovative mattress recycling program continues today; people can dispose of old mattresses at the WLSSD’s Materials Recovery Center in Duluth.
Goodwill doesn’t accept mattresses from the public, but it partners with the Material Recovery Center, where individuals can dispose of their mattresses for a fee. Mattresses are then shipped to Goodwill’s facility.
How to get rid of your mattress?
If you are replacing your old mattress, first, see if the company will remove the old mattress when they deliver the new.
Check out local recycling facilities: