Inefficient waste management systems and a lack of government regulations make it difficult for businesses to recycle mattresses, as they need clarification on the requirements or where to send them…writes N. Lothungbeni Humtsoe
Have you ever wondered what to do with your old mattress once you’ve purchased a new one? One typical solution is to throw it away. But, instead of simply dumping it, did you know you might look into environmentally friendly disposal options?
Mattress waste is a significant problem in India. Tens of thousands of mattresses are thrown each year, with the majority of them ending up in landfills. Mattresses abandoned in this manner disintegrate over hundreds of years, releasing toxic substances into the environment.
Speaking with Anand Nichani, Managing Director of Magniflex India, a homegrown mattress brand, explains several ways to repurpose old mattresses instead of throwing them away, such as making pet beds, transforming them into little cushions, pillows, and so on.
Why the issue of mattress waste in India is increasing?
Nichani: According to a 2022 report, India’s mattress market was estimated at around Rs 20,000 crore in 2022. Approximately 7-9 million mattresses are sold in the country each year, with a replacement cycle of every 10 years. The rise in income levels, increased urbanisation, changing lifestyles, and growth in the real estate and hospitality sectors are significant factors that accelerated the development of the Indian mattress market.
While the buying capacity has increased, we have yet to figure out how to manage the discarded mattresses. As a result, the discarded mattresses end up in landfills, which can take up much space and release harmful pollutants into the environment.
Inefficient waste management systems and a lack of government regulations make it difficult for businesses to recycle mattresses, as they need clarification on the requirements or where to send them.
How mattress recycling can help reduce the burden?
Nichani: Mattresses contain various harmful materials, such as flame retardants, polyurethane foam, and metal springs. When these materials are disposed of in landfills, they can leach into the soil and water, contaminating the environment. Recycling mattresses help to prevent these harmful materials from entering the atmosphere.
The materials used to make mattresses can be recycled and reused to make new products. Recycling helps conserve resources and reduce the need to extract new materials from the environment.
The recycling of mattresses will also contribute to creating jobs in collecting, processing, and manufacturing recycled materials. Job creation can help boost the economy and create opportunities for our country’s people.
Overall, mattress recycling is a win-win for the environment and the economy. It is a sustainable way to dispose of mattresses and helps protect the environment.
How to choose an eco-friendly mattress?
Nichani: There has to be more propaganda on this; people should be educated on how to buy a mattress. We often come across customers looking for a cheap bargain, and customers usually need to realise that low-cost mattresses come with highly toxic materials, that can harm their health and our environment.
People should make an informed decision while buying mattresses, assess what their mattress is made of, look for OEKO-TEX certifications on products and manufacturing processes, and opt for patented Memoform in place of ordinary foam mattresses. Some mattresses also come with natural wood fabric – known as ecopaedic mattresses, which provide the right temperature to sleep and are environment-friendly.
What are the ways to recycle a mattress?
Nichani: Recycling, whether done on a large scale or small scale, is beneficial to the environment. Some ways to recycle your old mattress are;
Many waste management companies offer mattress recycling programs. You can contact your local waste management company to see if they provide this service.
Some charities accept mattresses that are in good condition. Donating your mattress is a great way to give your mattress a new life and help someone in need.
You can sell your mattress online through Facebook Marketplace. This is a great way to get some money back for your old mattress and help someone else find a good deal.
What novel approach do you believe could reduce mattress pollution?
Nichani: One way to reduce mattress pollution is to use sustainable and biodegradable materials in manufacturing. Mattresses should be made with materials that can be broken down by microorganisms in the environment. This means that they do not contribute to pollution when they are disposed of of., viz., natural cotton, wood fabric, viscose (it’s made from the cellulose of the trees), silk, linen, camel fibre, horse hair, merino wool, cashmere, etc., The presence of such materials is usually demonstrated by certifications like – OEKO TEX and GOTS.
Mattresses can be designed to be more easily recycled by using materials that are easily separated and by using fewer hazardous materials.
There is currently a lack of mattress recycling infrastructure in many countries. This makes it difficult for people to recycle their mattresses. By creating more mattress recycling infrastructure, we can make it easier for people to recycle their mattresses and reduce mattress pollution.
Many people are not aware that mattresses can be recycled. Educating the public about mattress recycling can encourage more people to recycle their mattresses and reduce mattress pollution.
Any DIY projects that may be done to utilise old mattresses instead of throwing them away.
Nichani: There are so many innovative things one could do with old mattresses; Upcycle them to use as upholstery for your garden/balcony furniture, use them as a pet bed, use them for your kids’ play area, convert them into small cushions, pillows, materials such as fabric and springs and foam can be used as mulch in your garden to help retain moisture and suppress weed growth.