According to the Mattress Recycling Council (MRC)'s latest report to state officials, more than 83% of mattresses discarded in the state in 2019 were diverted from California landfills, up 3 percentage points from the previous year.
This achievement is a testament to the ongoing success of the statewide mattress recycling program known to consumers as Bye Bye Mattress. Since launching in 2016, MRC has increased the number of units collected, pounds of material recycled and percentage of the population with access to the program.
Other accomplishments noted in the report further demonstrate the effectiveness of the program, including MRC's collaborative efforts to combat illegal dumping and investments in research to improve the recycling process and develop new markets for reclaimed component materials.
"There's been significant challenges facing the recycling industry, yet the Mattress Recycling Council continues to operate a program that improves year-over-year," according to Managing Director Mike O'Donnell. "We are always moving forward, increasing efficiency, incubating innovation, growing our network and finding ways to support a more sustainable environment."
In 2019, MRC focused its collection network expansion on rural counties; areas of the state experiencing high per capita rates of illegal dumping; and communities disproportionately vulnerable to pollution. As a result, MRC added additional no-cost collection sites, collection events and municipal curbside bulky item collection programs, while also expanding access to the program for mattress retailers to more easily recycle old units collected from their customers. Overall, residential access increased from 92.7% to 94.8%, with higher gains in rural counties (78.5% to 85.8%) and environmental justice communities (95.3% to 98.5%). By the end of 2019, every county in the state had access to the program through at least one collection site or collection event.
"Coordinating with mattress retailers and the existing solid waste infrastructure throughout California has been a monumental achievement for the program," said O'Donnell. "We've augmented that network by collaborating with nonprofit partners, including Local Conservation Corps, Goodwill Industries and Habitat for Humanity, so that access to the program is provided no matter where you live."
MRC's footprint of over 200 collection sites, 150 collection events and 50 curbside bulky item collection programs, combined with retailers taking back used units from customers when new ones are delivered, enabled MRC to collect more than 1.4 million mattresses for recycling in California in 2019, diverting 58.3 million pounds of material from state landfills.
MRC's robust research investments are critical to mattress recycling improvements as well as the long-term success of the program. In 2019, MRC focused on increasing efficiency and exploring new applications for recycled mattress components. Significant projects included more than $120,000 in funding awards for collection sites to enhance their storage and loading capabilities, studies to identify new end markets and improve the transportation network, lean manufacturing assessments of its recyclers and projects to improve the recycling of pocketed coils and create a circular economy for polyurethane foam.
In addition to improving the program's outputs, MRC also launched the Sleep Products Sustainability Program (SP2) to help mattress manufacturers reduce waste while increasing operational efficiencies. Three companies completed the initial SP2 training in 2019 and are now identifying steps to reduce their environmental impacts, establish best practices and define metrics to track progress.
"Through MRC's accomplishments this year, the mattress industry has demonstrated that it is committed to not only end-of-life management of its products, but fostering a cleaner, greener future for California," said O'Donnell.
About The Mattress Recycling Council and Bye, Bye Mattress: The Mattress Recycling Council (MRC) is a nonprofit organization that operates recycling programs in states that have passed mattress recycling laws: California, Connecticut and Rhode Island. MRC was founded by the bedding industry and recycles more than 1.5 million mattresses each year.