According to the EPA, the United States disposes of an estimated 18.2  million mattresses each year, of which only 19% of them are recycled. That's enough to fill 1.5 million dump trucks! Most of these mattresses end up in landfills, where they can take hundreds of years to decompose. In addition, mattresses can release harmful chemicals into the environment, such as flame retardants and lead.

So how do we combat this? One of the first things that come to mind is to prioritize a mattress made of organic components like Essentia! Did you know the Essentia mattress when left fully exposed to the elements will fully biodegrade over 3 years?!? So while our goal is to be sure we are prioritizing recycling mattresses it is great to have the peace of mind that an Essentia will not be leaching harmful chemicals or toxic flame retardants into the soil and water. 

Why Do So Many Mattresses End Up in Landfills? 

Now to the problem at hand, many mattress companies today offer between 100 and 365-day sleep trials. Theoretically, this means a consumer can cycle between different mattresses at little to no cost to them. However, the consumer is not taking into account the potential landfill crisis they are causing by trying to game the system. 

Ideally, the first step when getting rid of a mattress is to try to donate the mattress to a secondhand store or charity like Goodwill, Habitat for Humanity, or The Salvation Army. If the mattress is clean and in good condition these organizations are happy to take a used mattress. 

If a mattress is not fit for donation, and there is no recycling facility to process the mattress it will generally end up in a landfill. Traditional mattresses or cheaper-made mattresses usually fall into this category as the materials they are made with are not worth much on the secondary market. 

You would think it would be easy to recycle a mattress, but unfortunately, that is not the case. Recycling mattresses in the US is easier in states that participate in the Mattress Recycling Council program such as Rhode Island, Connecticut, and California. If you aren’t in one of these states you might find it quite challenging to find a facility to take a mattress for recycling and in some cases your nearest drop-off point may be in another state entirely. Leaving many consumers with no other option but the landfill. 

Who is the Mattress Recycling Council

The Mattress Recycling Council (MRC) is a non-profit organization formed by the bedding industry to operate the Bye Bye Mattress recycling programs in states that have enacted mattress recycling laws—California, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. This means the retailer collects a small fee at checkout for each mattress and foundation sold in any of these states. Then the fees are transferred to the state to fund their recycling program. Every retailer that sells mattresses or foundations must by law collect these fees, the state is the one that approves the amount of each fee which is not set or controlled by the retailer.

The goal of the MRC is to increase mattress recycling to reduce the impact mattress dumping has had on the environment. Fees are used by the state to raise awareness by educating consumers about the importance of mattress recycling and eliminating illegal dumping. States also need these fees to help conserve natural resources, rely less on landfills, and create new local jobs. These fees are mandated by law, collected by individual retailers at checkout, and transferred to the state once the transaction is completed.

While not all states or countries participate in this program as yet Bye Bye Mattress has done a great job of compiling lists of facilities that can recycle a mattress. With over 1074 recycling facilities on the list, we hope to see this grow. It's not enough but as consumers change values and priorities, we will see more states changing laws to mandate fees in order to address this massive landfill nightmare. 

Upcycling or Repurposing an Old Mattress

If you have a creative side, and can’t find somewhere to recycle or donate your old mattress, it may be worth your time to consider upcycling or repurposing it rather than throwing it away.

Transforming an old mattress into something useful and “new” can be fun and help the environment. Mattresses take up a lot of space in local landfills and the majority of them are synthetic foam or traditional spring coil mattresses that take up to 120 years to fully decompose. 

It makes you think twice about your next mattress purchase because the cheap initial investment turns into a major environmental cost.

Here are a few ideas to repurpose memory foam and spring mattresses:

  • Turn spring coils into a wine rack
  • Convert coils into lawn furniture with rust-proof paint
  • DIY plant holders  
  • Padded lawn chair cushions
  • Build a compost bin with wood slats from an old foundation
  • Soundproof a room 
  • Use the old foam as treehouse insulation

Latex foam on the other hand lasts a long time, is easily recycled into other useful forms, and makes an attractive option for people who aren’t DIY inclined. However, not all latex is created the same as some manufacturers blend it with synthetic oils to achieve specific characteristics like firmness, flexibility, durability, color retention, and resistance to chemicals. It’s a good idea to look for natural or certified latex for the healthiest and most eco-friendly mattress option. 

Here are a few good ideas to repurpose latex foam:

  • Create stuffing for furniture items
  • Dog beds
  • Bean bags 
  • Chair Cushions
  • Protective padding of valuable items in storage
  • Adding it as a top layer to your compost to  assist in the decomposition of waste
  • Playhouse foam pit padding

Essentia’s Beyond Organic Standard & Betterhood Program

Mattresses being donated to Sweet Dream Makers by Essentia

While most companies don’t think about what happens after the initial sale, at Essentia we practice what we preach with a self-managed initiative that is at the core of all our product design and processes called the Beyond Organic® Standard. Our mattresses are and have always been beyond organic because they are thoughtfully designed and sourced for clean, ethical, and life-replenishing sleep. That’s why our Beyond Latex foam and organic mattresses are made using materials that come from the earth and not a chemical plant. Since our products are sourced from the earth, they will biodegrade within 3 years when consistently exposed to the elements – wind, rain, and sun.

Because our goal is to also be sure no Essentia mattress ever ends up in a landfill, we have expanded the reach of our Betterhood community programs to handle all donations of mattresses, foundations, and pillows to local charities, with a focus on charities that directly benefit spreading wellness through sleep. We’ve set our annual donation threshold of $1.2 million worth of products, additionally, we have added a focus on supporting student-athletes with products and education on sleep and recovery to help them achieve their goals.

Under our Betterhood program, we are able to donate mattresses that are returned under our 120-Night Sleep Trial to charities that focus on rehoming or providing safe sleep for communities. These mattresses are thoroughly inspected, and if in good condition for donation we change the cover to a basic organic cotton Betterhood cover and they are off to provide comfortable sleep to those in need.