How to Dispose of Old Mattress
We spend a lot of time in our beds — about one third of our lives, in fact. Beds are places of relaxation and refuge, and there’s nothing as home-like as the super comfortable mattress that greets us every night when we lie down. But like so many things that we use frequently, our mattresses won’t last forever. They can wear out and sustain damage just like other pieces of furniture. Additionally, our own sleep needs might change if we find a new partner or if a shift in health redefines what a comfortable night’s sleep feels like. Whatever the reason, sooner or later that old mattress has to go away. So how do we dispose of it? And can we dispose of it for free?
Can I dump my old mattress in the trash?
In the U.S., we live in an economic system that puts much more focus on manufacturing and selling new products than on managing the inevitable waste stream of old products that we don’t want any more. Most of our discarded durable goods end up in a landfill. ConsumerAffairs reports that almost 20 million mattresses are added to U.S. landfills every year, and that just one mattress and one box spring can take up to 40 cubic feet of landfill space. However, if you’re in a situation where discarding your mattress (responsibly) is the only real option, here are a few things to keep in mind.
Like most furniture, a mattress is classified as a bulky or heavy item, and your local waste collection service will probably accept it only on certain days of the year. Find out when those special pickups are scheduled and what sizes and quantities are allowed. On the morning of the pickup, wrap the mattress in plastic to keep it dry (wet mattresses are heavy!) and put it out for the collectors. You can also break it down into smaller pieces and put them in trash bags.
If your city disposal service charges a fee for mattress removal, or if you decide to hire a hauling service, you might have to pay between $100 and $150. Renting a dumpster to get rid of all your bulky items is more cost effective. For example, Budget Dumpster suggests that 20 cubic yards of waste will cost you $433, which is about a 35% savings over what you’d pay a hauling service.
But since your mattress is still going directly to the landfill, why not consider other alternatives?
Who recycles old mattresses?
Did you know that up to 90% of your mattress and box spring can be broken down and recycled? When you think about it as a collection of parts and materials, you’ll find several kinds of fabric, at least two kinds of foam, steel springs, and a wood frame. You can take it apart yourself (which we’ll discuss later), or you can find a mattress recycler who’ll do it for you.
This isn’t a free service, but at a cost of $20 to $40 per mattress, it’s considerably less expensive than hiring someone to dump your old mattress in a landfill. To learn more about mattress recycling in your area, visit the Green Directory.
If you’re a resident of California, Connecticut, or Rhode Island, and if your old mattress doesn’t pose a health or safety hazard, you can take advantage of Bye Bye Mattress. This is a program operated by the Mattress Recycling Council, a non-profit that administers the funds collected through those states’ Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) programs. GreenCitizen likes this approach because it represents forethought in the manufacturing and retailing of durable goods — an early-stage fee that builds in the recycling cost at the end of a product’s useful life.
Who buys old mattresses?
Selling a secondhand mattress can be iffy, but it’s possible. There’s a market for never used or gently used mattresses if they’re clean and in good condition. Depending on the quality of your mattress and your asking price, consider having it professionally cleaned prior to offering it for sale. As for your asking price, keep in mind that your likely buyers may be college students trying to furnish their temporary homes on the cheap, or other young adults who may not be able to afford new furniture. On the plus side, younger buyers are less likely to be daunted by the challenges of transporting bulky items, so the hauling is on them. The best way to connect with this potential market is via local bulletin boards.
Can I donate my old mattress?
If your mattress is in good shape, you can always donate it to someone in need. An online referral platform like Donation Town can help you locate a nearby charity and, depending on where you live, arrange for pickup. Furniture Banks of North America is a network designed to help struggling families live comfortably. For a mattress that might be near the end of its useful life, consider donating it to an animal shelter or letting kids use it in a play area. In either of these cases, a professional cleaning will make your gift a lot more appealing and meaningful.
Where can I dispose of my mattress in the San Francisco Bay Area?
Outside the San Francisco Bay Area
For locations of mattress disposal options near you, please consult the Green Directory, a nationwide search engine for recycling centers. Just click on “Green Directory” at the top of this page and then enter “mattresses” and your zip code to find the drop-off locations closest to you. Our Green Directory can find recycling centers for many household items.
How long should a mattress last?
According to Amerisleep, manufacturers recommend replacing your mattress every eight years if you’re under age 40, and every five to seven years if you’re over 40. The reason for these numbers? An eight-year-old mattress is approaching the end of its useful life, and by the start of middle age, human bodies tolerate less pressure and may develop different comfort needs for sleeping.
If you’re throwing away an old mattress because you’re purchasing a new one, consider buying from a company that delivers. It’s increasingly common for mattress sellers to take away the old when they bring in the new. In many cases, this is a free service. While it’s certainly a relief to get that old thing out of your life, any truly green citizen will ask about what happens to it after they haul it away. The company that donates or recycles your old mattress is more likely to get your business than the one that tosses it into landfill.
How can I reuse or repurpose my old mattress?
If you have the patience and creativity for turning your old mattress into something useful, you can break it down into its component parts:
- Buttons, fabric, and thread for new upholstery and pillows
- Cotton batting for compost and landscaping fabric
- Foam or polyester fiberfill for making dog beds or soundproofing a music rehearsal space
- Wood for campfires or miscellaneous carpentry projects
- Metal springs for wine bottle holders, garden stakes or trellises, or any kind of art project you can think of
For more ideas and suggestions for creative reuse, check out howstuffworks.com.
Get the most out of your mattress.
One obvious way to postpone the hassle and expense of replacing something as big as a mattress is by taking the best possible care of it. These three tips will go a long way toward extending the useful life of your mattress:
- Make sure the mattress is resting on a bed frame with center support. The center is likely to start sagging first, which puts unnecessary stress on the spine. Indeed, the National Sleep Foundation reports that two-thirds of Americans complain of chronic back pain interfering with their sleep.
- Rotate your mattress every two months so that it wears evenly. If it’s double-sided, this means flipping it over. If it’s single-sided, rotate it end to end.
- No more monkeys (or kids) jumping on the bed! What child doesn’t like a vigorous bounce on a big, yielding piece of furniture? Fun as that may be, it’s really bad for any mattress that you rely on for a comfortable sleep, so get those little monkeys to stop!
Finally, it’s important to keep your sleeping space allergen-free. While few people can maintain a completely sterile home, you should be aware that the average mattress may harbor as many as ten million microscopic dust mites. If you’re allergic to these organisms or their dander, your mattress might be causing a range of upper respiratory problems or triggering your asthma. For some people, this might even require replacing their mattress. But before you get to that point, try using mattress pads and other simple barrier systems. And it would certainly be a good idea to check out this wikiHow article about how to keep your mattress clean.
Whatever you end up doing with your new or old mattress, we hope the information in this post will help you rest easy with your decision!
Alan Lipton, GreenCitizen’s writer/editor, firmly believes in the company’s mission to make every day Earth Day. His background in educational nonprofits, health literacy podcasts, experiential marketing, and storytelling helps him shape GreenCitizen’s message. Alan also writes fiction and songs, performs music at farmers’ markets and open mics, and battles unwanted vegetation in the yard.