Mattresses take up a disproportionate amount of space in landfills. They’re difficult to pack down and often clog machinery in the process. You can help lessen your environmental footprint by choosing a biodegradable mattress and by disposing of your old mattress in an environmentally responsible way.
Finding a Biodegradable Mattress
While many mattresses may have elements or components that are biodegradable, only natural latex mattresses are 95 percent biodegradable. However, not all latex, even natural latex, breaks down to the same degree. There are two types of natural latex used for mattresses, Dunlop and Talalay.
Dunlop latex is poured into a mold, baked, and washed to produce a durable latex. A natural sediment in the latex sinks to the bottom of each layer, leaving one side of the mattress firmer than the other. These dense, firm mattresses have the least amount of chemical treatment and simplest manufacturing process, which leaves a small carbon footprint.
Latex mattresses made through the Talalay method go through a more complicated process with flash freezing and carbon dioxide gas. No particles settle in the Talalay process, creating a more uniform consistency to the mattress. These mattresses are lighter and softer than a Dunlop mattress. However, they’re more expensive because of the manufacturing process, and they contain more air in the latex, which makes them less durable.
Many natural latex mattresses have a small amount of synthetic latex mixed in as well. Synthetic latex is made from petrochemicals, but the amount ranges from 5 to 40 percent of the finished product.
These two latex options provide a comfortable mattress that has less impact on the environment. The highest quality, most eco-friendly latex mattresses will have a Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) and Global Organic Latex Standard (GOLS) certifications. GOTS monitors organic fibers and their derivatives. To receive this certification, a mattress must be made of 95 percent certified organic materials. GOLS monitors latex products and only gives certification to those that are 95 percent organically produced. Latex mattress can have both certifications.
Buying an eco-friendly mattress is only half of the equation when it comes to keeping mattresses out of landfills. After choosing a durable, biodegradable mattress, you have to dispose of the old one, and you have a couple of options.
National organizations like the Salvation Army, Goodwill, and Habitat for Humanity International accept mattress donations and may offer pick up services in your area. Some pickup services may charge a small fee. Local second-hand stores, homeless shelters, and women’s shelters are other alternatives that may accept mattress donations. For the donation to be accepted, the mattress must be stain, bug, and tear free.
Currently, there are no mattress recycling facilities in Cleveland. However, with some extra work, you can deconstruct the mattress yourself and recycle the individual components. Innerspring mattresses can contain as much as 25 pounds of steel. Foam fillers can be shredded and used to make carpet pads, car seat cushions, and pillows. Wooden frames can be taken apart for firewood or chipped to be used as lawn mulch.