Today is the day. Your comfortable old mattress, that longtime companion, has reached the natural end of its lifespan. It's covered in tears. The springs are sagging. The stuffing has begun to leak out. You spilled coffee on it and can't for the life of you get the stain to fade. When you lie down, it makes a noise somewhere between a squeak and a whine. Whatever the reason, you've decided it's time for your trusted old friend to retire and to start a new bedtime experience with a brand new mattress.


You drag your mattress downstairs. You don't do it alone - even the smallest twin mattress can approach 20 or more cubic feet in size! You draft your mother or your partner or your little brother into helping you wrangle it out of the house and load it into the back of your dad's old pickup truck. You take an extra moment to check that every strap is secure.


And then...you drive. You take your old friend, your steadfast old mattress, to the landfill. (Or the "dump" as you and your friends used to jokingly call it when you were younger.) You unload the mattress from the bed of your borrowed truck - probably with the help of a few bored-looking landfill employees - and tip it over the edge. Tumbling end over end, your mattress comes to rest on top of years and years worth of garbage. Broken chairs, cut grass, cracked TVs and stinky, rotten food will be your mattress's only companions for the rest of its life.


You pause. Wait, what? The rest of its life? What do you mean? I'm done with my mattress! I just drop it off at the landfill and it...goes away, or disappears, or something? And then I never have to think about it again! Right?


Wrong.


All around the world, every single day, people are making the terrible mistake of simply throwing their mattresses away. And why wouldn't they? It's the easiest option, the path of least resistance. Take the mattress to the dump, toss it over the edge and you're done. Nowadays, some landfills even have services where they'll send trucks to your house to pick up your used household goods from the curb, allowing you to do even less work than ever before.


But every time you take a mattress - or other large household item - to a landfill, you're directly contributing to the destruction of the environment and the gradual worsening of global air quality. That's right - for all that you think of mattresses as soft, fluffy and harmless, they're actually a huge problem due to how long they take to decompose.

​What Happens to Mattresses in Landfills?

You've probably never given much thought to your mattress's remaining lifespan after you drop it off at the "dump" with all the other trash. However, mattresses are big, dense objects. They take up space - and, most importantly (and worryingly) they take up time.



You heard us right. Even the smallest mattress will take approximately one hundred years to fully decompose. That king bed you used to love sleeping at when you visited your grandparents for the holidays will take even longer - it will easily be something like two, three, or even four or five hundred years until that big old thing is fully gone. Currently, scientists estimate that there are approximately 50,000 partially or barely decomposed mattresses sitting in landfills in the United States alone. And, even worse, that number is predicted to increase in the coming years as record high global temperatures and sickness outbreaks encourage more and more people to throw away mattresses more and more frequently.


And while your mattress is languishing in the landfill, ever so slowly waiting to decompose, what else is it doing? After all, it's not just passively sitting there. That mattress, even without moving an inch, is affecting the environment and the world around it in a variety of negative ways.

For example, it's…


  • Taking up space. Remember how earlier we said that even a small mattress takes up on average 23 cubic feet of space? Mattresses are one of the largest items which are regularly tossed into landfills. And with how long they take to decompose, mattresses ​will be taking up that space for a long, long time. Each time a landfill fills up and runs out of space, a new one has to be dug, taking away more and more land which otherwise could be used to support crops or houses.

  • Releasing harmful chemicals into the atmosphere, potentially including ozone depleters or volatile organic compounds (VOCs). In another article (found here), we discussed how such substances often form key components of chemical flame retardants and insect repellents used to treat lower-quality mattresses such as those made from polyurethane foam, cotton or synthetic latex. When these mattresses are tossed into landfills, that exposes these chemicals to the outside air for the first time in that mattress's lifespan. These substances are called "volatile" because they turn from solid or liquid form into a gas at very low temperatures - temperatures easily reached under the heat of the sun. Once "off-gassed" into the atmosphere, these chemicals are free to attack helpful substances such as ozone found high above Earth's surface.

  • Polluting the soil and water. As the mattress slowly decomposes, bits of it will be transferred into the surrounding soil and groundwater - the latter of which can eventually make their way into rivers, lakes and even the ocean. Even something as seemingly harmless as a small bit off cotton fluff or a clump of feathers can cause a fish or animal to choke to death, not to mention the chemicals already discussed in the previous bullet point.

  • Being wasted. Most mattresses are made up of a wide range of different materials and components. Many of these, including springs, latex, foam, and stuffing, can be reused. Alternately, the entire mattress itself could be repurposed and given to a new home where it will continue to bring joy and restful sleep. But once it's been put in a landfill, that's it. It has come in contact with other, even more toxic types of trash, so it can no longer be reused, repurpose or possibly even recycled. Throwing your used mattress into a landfill nothing less than a massive waste of resources and potential.

Ok, so we've hopefully explained exactly why you shouldn't put your used mattresses in the "dump". They waste huge amounts of space and resources while negatively impacting the environment every single day they spend in there. But now you might be asking, okay, what should I do with it instead? I need a new mattress, and I don't want it sitting around uselessly in my attic, basement or garage.


Don't worry! We understand! Luckily, you have tons of different, awesome, exciting options. Your old mattress can continue to be useful in any number of ways. We've outlined a few of our favorites below:

​Continue the Sleep Cycle - Sell or Donate

Sometimes, you need a new mattress because the old one has been damaged to the point that it is no longer usable - it's torn, the stuffing is leaking and the springs are poking out. But what if your mattress is still in relatively good shape, but needs to be replaced due to your allergies, or a move to a new house, or simply your interest in a bigger bed? In this situation, we recommend either reselling or donating your used mattress.


If you choose to resell, you can do so yourself via advertising on your social media or listing it on a website such as eBay or Craigslist. Mattresses are always in demand, and if you list it at a reasonable price, we're sure you can find yourself a buyer in no time! If you're looking to sell other home goods or gently used items in addition to your mattress, why not host a yard or garage sale? Spend some time outside in the sun, get to know your neighbors better, and make some money - what could be better?


Additionally, some mattress stores or retailers will have resale or recycling programs available for you to take advantage of. You can sell your gently used mattress to a store or plant which will then clean it and resell it. As more and more manufacturers of mattresses become aware of the environmental consequences of throwing mattresses in landfills, they have begun to develop ways to entice their customers not to do so anymore.


If, instead, you choose to donate your mattress, there are many organizations and establishments which will gladly accept it. For example, homeless shelters, orphanages, furniture banks and missions are usually happy to accept donated mattresses. Some hospitals, nursing homes or other healthcare facilities may also take gently used mattresses - and some may even offer tax incentives in exchange for your donation!



If your mattress is extremely old, worn, torn out or otherwise unable to be used for its original purpose, another set of donation options which may be available to you are animal shelters or veterinary hospitals. Worn-out mattresses can, in many cases, still be safely used as beds for dogs, cats and even larger animals. Some of these facilities even employ staff members who can repurpose mattress stuffing and blankets into homemade, environmentally conscious pet beds!

​Reduce, Reuse, Repurpose

If you do not feel that your mattress can be resold or recycled in its original form, it is still highly likely that it can be broken down and its component materials repurposed and turned to new uses. Some facilities, such as the mattress retailers and manufacturers or animal shelters listed above, have the resources to break down and reuse mattress components. However, if you are innovative, creative, or a fan of DIY projects around the home, you can also deconstruct and repurpose your mattress yourself!


But before we get into just how to do that, let's break down (pun fully intended!) which parts of a mattress can be reused and highlight just a few of the purposes which these materials might be able to serve:


  • Metal coils and springs can be melted down and reused for other projects. Most springs are made out of lightweight, sturdy metal which can be made into anything from a pot to a light switch cover to even a cool piece of jewelry!

  • Polyurethane, memory foam or foamed latex can be shredded and broken down into "pellets" which can then be used to stuff any number of items. We mentioned pet bedding above, but these foam pieces could also stuff a pillow or a blanket, underlay a piece of carpet, or even serve as insulation to help keep your house warm in the winter!

  • Fabrics such as cotton or wool, which may be used to create the outermost layers of mattresses or their pads or covers, can be cut down into smaller pieces to be used around the house. Larger pieces of fabric can become pillowcases or welcome mats, while smaller ones make perfect handkerchiefs, napkins or placemats.

  • If the mattress is extremely torn up or even in several pieces, don't despair! Natural fibers, such as cotton, can be safely burned and used as a source of warmth and fuel. These fibers are also usually welcomed as a donation, as they can be recycled and eventually become a part of a new piece of clothing or home goods.

  • If the mattress has a wood frame, it can be broken down and its boards used to make furniture, shore up a wall, or even be carved and become a children's toy! Like natural cotton fibers, wood can also be safely burned as a source of heat during cold weather.

As you can see, there is almost no part of a mattress that cannot be safely recycled and put to any one of a variety of uses! If you are donating the mattress to a recycling plant or other facility, you don't need to do anything other than show up and hand it over. They will have the tools and materials ready on-site to break it down into its component parts. However, if you are planning to deconstruct your mattress at home, read on for simple, easy to follow instructions provided by our thrifty, crafty, Brand Name staff!

​DIY Deconstruction!

Deconstructing a mattress from home is a simple process which doesn't require any expensive, complicated tools to carry out. However, if you're going to be breaking down your mattress for reusable or recyclable parts, we do recommend having two things on hand: either a pair of scissors or a sharp knife and a flathead screwdriver. These items will help you separate the parts of the mattress from one another cleanly and easily with minimal risk of damaging anything in the process.


Lay the mattress out on a flat, dry surface. You can use either an indoor or an outdoor surface for this, but we recommend something which is easy to clean such as a wood floor or your garage or porch. Make sure that any pads, blankets, toppers or anything which is not directly connected to the mattress itself have been removed.


Using your sharp scissors or knife, cut around the four edges of the mattress. If there is a fabric cover on the mattress, make sure to cut it fully and completely away from the interior latex or foam layers. Once any fabric covering or other outer layers have been cut through, slowly and carefully remove the inner layers one by one. Try to keep each layer as intact as possible. Do not be afraid to make additional cuts with your scissors or knife as needed.


If your mattress contains any springs or coils on the inside, your flat-head screwdriver may have a very important role to play. We find that the screwdriver can be helpful in locating each spring and removing them from any frame or outer layer to which they might be attached to. If you need to cut through individual springs or coils and the screwdriver is not up to the task, you can also make use of a small pair of needle-nose pliers for this part.


Don't forget that there may be a second layer of fabric or padding on the bottom of the mattress - if you need to flip it over during any part of the process, go ahead and do so!


Once you have successfully broken the mattress down into its component parts, separate and sort like materials. Keep the springs separate from the fabric separate from the latex or foam and so on. If you are not going to be using the parts immediately, store them in a clean, dry location at room temperature. Keep separated mattress parts away from children, infants or pets.


​Wait, What About Latex?

So far in this article, we've mentioned a bunch of mattress materials which can be safely reused and recycled including cotton, springs and polyurethane foam. But what about a certain particularly special material which all of our high quality Brand Name mattresses are made from?


Of course, we're referring to none other than sustainable, environmentally friendly, nontoxic natural latex. Latex mattresses can be recycled in a number of ways, and can continue giving back to the planet and the environment throughout their extremely long lifespans.


When compared to other mattress materials, latex is extremely durable. Latex mattresses can continue to function and provide excellent sleep even after years and years of regular use. They degrade far more slowly than polyurethane foam, memory foam, metal springs or natural fibers such as wood or cotton. Because of this, donating latex mattresses to facilities in need is always a great option. When you're ready to purchase your newest latex mattress, you can sleep contentedly knowing that your old one is still doing its duty helping someone get a great night's rest!


If you do choose to break down a latex mattress for parts, you will find that natural latex, similar to other "foamed" materials including polyurethane, makes an excellent stuffing. Cut into smaller pieces, natural latex can be used to stuff a pillow or children's toy or make an excellent, soft, durable carpet overlay. Alternately, you can donate the latex to be recycled, where it can be reused and reformed into a number of different shapes from toys to gloves to sneakers to even a brand new mattress!


Lastly, natural latex offers a unique recycling opportunity which other mattress materials do not. Used natural latex mattresses can be donated to waste-to-energy plants, where they will be broken down and used to generate energy which can power farms, factories, or even go back to its roots and help out the natural latex harvesting process! In our world today, finding and utilizing clean power and fuel sources is incredibly important, which makes recycling natural latex even more important!


In the above sections, we suggested a couple of fun and unique uses for the recycled parts of your mattress. But we're always excited to hear what new and creative uses our customers come up with! Feel free to contact us at any time with testimonials or pictures about how YOU reduced, reused or recycled your mattress!

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