How to Dispose of a Mattress: Recycling and Other Eco-Friendly Options

mattress recycling
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Can you recycle a mattress? The answer is yes. And not only can an old mattress be recycled, it's actually easier to do than you think.

When it comes to getting rid of bulky items, the mattress is one of the most tossed aside, cumbersome of them all. Spotted in alleys tucked away near dumpsters and on neighborhood streets to be picked up by sanitation departments, used mattresses are often destined for landfills, where it may take anywhere from 80 to 120 years for them to decompose. And with more than 50,000 mattresses thrown away each day in the U.S. (a total of 15 to 20 million a year), according to the Mattress Recycling Council, that’s a lot of waste.

How to Recycle an Old Mattress?

There are several ways to go about making sure your mattress never sees the landfill. First, after hopefully researching and purchasing an eco-friendly sustainable mattress, it’s time to responsibly get rid of the old one—and recycling is the most Earth-friendly option. 

Most types of mattresses can be recycled, including foam, innerspring, pillowtop, and hybrid mattresses. Others, like waterbeds and memory foam mattresses are less likely to be accepted at recycling sites (the polyurethane foam is difficult and costly to recycle).. The following are the most popular options for recycling your old mattress.

How Are Mattresses Recycled?

More than 80% of the materials that make up an old mattress can be stripped away, separated, and recycled. During recycling, a machine will cut and peel away the top layer of fabric exposing the inner materials which are then separated and stored.

Metal springs are either sold as scrap metal or melted down and repurposed into new steel-based products. Padding can be cleaned and used under carpeting and wood framing can be chipped and turned into mulch. 

Retailer Recycling

If you’re purchasing a replacement mattress from a major retailer or from a store specializing in selling mattresses, they often have a recycling program. All you have to do is ask. If your new mattress is being delivered, the store will likely haul away and recycle your old one for free.

Private Haulers

If a retailer is not an option or you’re simply looking to get rid of an old mattress, you can find a private hauling company in your community. These range from owners of small recycling companies to major nationally known businesses. For example, 1-800-GOT-JUNK has a nationwide mattress recycling program in place.

Local Sanitation Pickup

Many communities offer recycling programs for bulk waste a couple of times a year or by appointment. You’ll need to call your local provider to find out if they’ll recycle your mattress before lugging it to the curb. 

State Programs

Some states—California, Rhode Island, and Connecticut included—have enacted laws and established guidelines for residents and retailers outlining how they should properly dispose of old mattresses. California, for example, has collected and recycled 7 million mattresses under its Bye Bye Mattress program.

Can You Recycle Box Springs?

Mattress springs in a factory
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Containing similar components to a mattress (minus the foam), a box spring can also be recycled using the same options you would for mattress recycling.

If you’re handy, you can even deconstruct your box spring right at home. Here’s how: With the bottom side facing up, cut and remove the fabric. Next, using a hammer or crowbar, separate the wood from the metal frame. The metal can head to the recycled with other scrap metal and the wood can be cut and used for projects at home. 

What About Inflatable Mattresses?

Inflatable mattresses can also be recycled, but these require a little more looking around because you’ll have to find a recycler that accepts PVC plastic.

Check with your local disposal and recycle companies to find one or give it a new lease on life as a tarp or furniture cover. Some ambitious DIY individuals take matters into their own hands turning the plastic scraps of an inflatable mattress into liners or outdoor grill covers, among many other uses.

Can I Donate an Old Mattress?

Old Mattresses and Appliances
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Yes, some organizations accept donations, but the question here is, should you donate your old mattress?

The lifespan of a mattress is roughly eight years. So if you’re simply upgrading or disposing of a mattress that is still in good shape, there are ways to pay it forward. But before considering donating, be realistic about the quality of the mattress. If it’s several years old, torn, stained, smells, or is no longer comfortable, the mattress is a candidate for recycling, not donation.

A good rule of thumb is to consider the reason you’re disposing of it in the first place.Many second-hand stores or organizations, such as Goodwill and Habitat for Humanity, and local shelters may not accept mattress donations due to sanitation concerns. Be sure to check with your favorite organization before simply dropping it off. 

You can also go on your community's social media pages, places like Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist to list your bed for donation or to find someone who’s in need of a spare. You may find a family in need or a kid going off to college or getting a first apartment that could use a helping hand, and if the mattress is in good shape it’s a win for everyone. 

Ways to Reuse or Upcycle Your Old Mattress 

Innovators and those who dabble in the arts see the demise of an old mattress as an opportunity. Why throw it out when you can slice and dice it and use its valuable materials for a project.

  • Use the foam as the stuffing for homemade throw pillows, a dog bed, or an outdoor lounge cushion. 
  • Springs can be transformed into vintage candle or snack holders or to display family photos. 
  • The wood of a box spring can be cut and used in home projects or starter firewood.
View Article Sources
  1. "Why Recycle." Mattress Recycling Council.

  2. "California." Mattress Recycling Council.