How to: Dispose of an Old Mattress

Washington DC

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(Photo courtesy of soundfromwayout on Flickr)

We took advantage of recent sales to purchase new twin mattresses to replace the old ones in our childhood bedroom. We decided to save on the delivery fee by picking them up in store which left us with the dubious pleasure of arranging for the disposal of our old mattresses. A little research demonstrated that this is much easier said than done…

The DC Department of Public Works (DPW) will collect large, bulky items (including mattresses) by appointment from households that receive DPW trash collection service – great if you live in a single family home or apartment building with up to three apartments, but not so helpful if you live in a large multi-unit building. The private company that picks up our building’s trash charges $50 to pick up bulky items for disposal.


Because a mattress can take up to 23 cubic feet of space in a landfill and may never truly break down, we wanted to find a more environmentally friendly way to dispose of our older mattresses. Mattresses are rich in recyclable components- the fabric and foam can be used to make insulation and carpet, the wood is often sold to wood chippers for use as fuel, and the high-quality springs can be melted down and sold to steel companies.


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(Photo courtesy of Conigliaro Industries)

Unfortunately, we soon learned that there are only a few mattress recycling facilities in the U.S. that break mattresses into their composite parts; those of you living in Massachusetts, Minnesota, and California have access to these facilities. Those of us in the DC area will soon be able to recycle our mattresses thanks to MattCanada, a Canadian company that is currently building a facility in Frederick, MD.
In the end, we turned to our old friend Craigslist for help. We listed the mattresses as free to a good home, and they were picked up later that day by a family in need. The next time you buy a new mattress, be sure to ask if the mattresses the delivery company takes away will be recycled; if not, please consider alternatives that are less harmful to the environment than disposal in a landfill.

- Colleen Quinn

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Maxwell left teaching in 2001 to start Apartment Therapy as a design business helping people to make their homes more beautiful, organized AND healthy. The website started up in 2004 with the help of his brother, Oliver.

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