When someone says they’re putting out the recycling, you normally picture drink bottles and old newspapers. All these items fit easily into a recycling bin and are dispatched without a second thought. “Job done”, you might think, “I’ve done my bit to save the world”.

However these everyday items only represent the tip of the iceberg in terms of what we could (and should) be recycling rather than sending to landfill.

3R Group, project managers for Rebound, tend to focus on the bulk of the iceberg, the largest part, mostly unseen – these are the complex or hazardous items that don’t have existing solutions and represent the greatest threat or a wasted resource. And right now their attention is on mattress recycling.

Mattresses might not spring to mind (excuse the pun) when thinking about what’s in a landfill, but they are a significant waste issue.

Consider this: everyone’s got one, they don’t last forever, they’re big, annoying to move and are made out of a complex range of materials, most of which are hidden inside them.

With that in mind, 3R started a project with mattress manufacturers, retailers and other stakeholders to develop a stewardship programme to divert old mattresses away from landfill to recycling outcomes.

Engagement so far has been very collaborative and supportive. And, because a mattress recycling solution would save significant landfill space and reduce public dumping issues, Auckland Council has taken an interest as well, supplying development funds via their Waste Minimisation and Innovation Fund.

While the project is still in its early stages, initial research and trials have proved the scale of the problem and the viability of developing recycling outcomes via an industry-led programme.

So, what do we know?

Mattresses are regularly dumped outside of landfill - this one in a Christchurch carpark

Mattresses are regularly dumped (and not necessarily in landfill) – this one in a Christchurch carpark

  • Approximately 300,000 mattresses are disposed of annually in NZ
  • These mattresses represent 8,100 tonnes of waste or 120,000 cubic metres of landfill space, with potential disposal costs of $14.4 million per year
  • One third of the mattresses (100,000) disposed of are in the Auckland region. Stacked up, these would be 100 times higher than the Sky Tower!
  • Early dismantling trials show materials as diverse as steel, foam, coir fibre, plastic net, cotton fill, timber and many fabric types

While the group are still working through the mattress recycling alternatives, overseas research shows that up to 90% of these materials are recyclable.

Nationally, this means that over 7,000 tonnes of materials could be recycled or repurposed rather than dumped, saving nearly 50 Olympic swimming pools worth of space, not to mention avoiding other issues that mattresses cause in landfills (picture a bouncy castle and you’re not far wrong…)

Who’s involved?

The group have been really encouraged by the industry response and Auckland Council’s interest in this initiative, and are working hard to develop a consumer-friendly programme that can be implemented across the board for maximum results.

The project team includes representatives from the following organisations:

Mattress dismantling trial held by 3R with MacLaren Park/Henderson South Community Trust at Waitakere Transfer Station

Mattress dismantling trial held by 3R with MacLaren Park/Henderson South Community Trust at Waitakere Transfer Station

  • 3R Group
  • AH Beard
  • Auckland Council
  • Bedpost
  • BedsRUs
  • Big Save
  • Community Recycling Network
  • Envision NZ
  • Harvey Norman
  • McLaren Park and Henderson South Community Trust
  • Sealy Beds
  • Tempurpedic
  • The Comfort Group
  • The Red Cross

Stay tuned

As at July 2016, Rebound is still in the project phase and we are unable to accept mattresses for recycling.  Please keep an eye out for the programme launch – we’ll be making some noise in the media when we go live.  Otherwise you can get further updates or more information by contacting Sarah Clare, Programme Development Manager at 3R.