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Used mattresses, or how to recycle up to 90% of a product


Although it didn’t exist five years ago, the industry of recovering and recycling used mattresses is growing in an increasing number of countries. Following in the footsteps of Canada, Germany, Switzerland, and France, Belgium has now entered the arena by creating a dedicated recycling unit. This new activity subscribes to the circular economy model, and is attractive, both in terms of protecting the environment and creating secondary raw materials.

Until now, most old mattresses – a product that takes a century to biodegrade – were buried. In France, for example, prior to 2012, when legislation required the furniture sector to manage its waste (based on the “polluter pays” principle), 5 to 6 million mattresses, i.e. 120,000 tonnes of waste, were buried each year. Now, up to 92%* of a used mattress can be recycled.

Once sorted, most of the mattress components (polyurethane, latex, metal, wood, cotton, etc.) can be recycled. The foam, for example, is used in the automobile (seats and armrests), furniture (seats and new mattresses), construction (sound and thermal insulation), and flooring industries.

What mattresses are made of

As must all new recycling industries, the mattress recycling industry needs to refine its model, both economically and technologically. In addition to the cost of collection, the quality of recycled polyurethane (nearly 30% of a used mattress) versus that of virgin polyurethane is an issue.

* Data : Recyc-Matelas