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Research partnership aims to put mattress waste to bed

A new partnership is aiming to forge a more sustainable approach to mattress design and disposal, tackling the estimated 600,000 mattresses disposed of in Scotland each year.

23 Dec 19

Zero Waste Scotland, Scotland’s circular economy experts, and the National Bed Federation (NBF) are to work together on a three-year research project to increase mattress recycling and encourage more sustainable design.

The partnership will see the organisations design a proposed Extended Producer Responsibility scheme for mattresses in Scotland, under which manufacturers and retailers are responsible for the stewardship of their product in a way that discourages wasteful disposal. Such schemes encourage producers to design products that last longer, are easy to repair, and are recyclable when they reach the end of their usable life.

Iain Gulland, Chief Executive of Zero Waste Scotland, said:

“The scale of mattress waste in Scotland is staggering, with close to three quarters of a million mattresses disposed of in Scotland each year.

“We understand that less than 1% are being collected for recycling. That represents a huge waste of the materials and labour that went into making those mattresses in the first place, as well as a lost opportunity to recover valuable materials such as steel and natural and synthetic fibres that could be reprocessed into new products and materials.”

Zero Waste Scotland estimates that:

  • The number of mattresses disposed of in Scotland in 2017 would be 112 times taller than Ben Nevis, if stacked up on top of each other.
  • They would cover the pitch at Murrayfield 174 times, if laid out next to each other.
  • They would fill Edinburgh’s Royal Commonwealth Pool 227 times.

What’s more, the planet-heating gases generated in the production of mattresses that were disposed of in Scotland in 2017 were equivalent to those emitted by 25,000 cars driving on our roads for a year – or more than 7,000 flights around the world.

Iain Gulland continued:

“Scotland’s vision for a circular economy is one in which we shift from being a throwaway society to one which eliminates waste entirely. Tackling the disposal of hard-to-recycle items like mattresses is a key priority for Zero Waste Scotland, and for Scotland as a nation.

“Scotland has an opportunity to support industry with mechanisms like Extended Producer Responsibility, which look to cover the real costs of responsible end of life management and progress to a more circular economy. It is great that the NBF and their members are keen to pursue this and see the opportunities and benefits of this approach.”

Jessica Alexander, executive director of the NBF, said:

“For several years now we have recognised that UK mattress industry has a responsibility to work towards a more sustainable, resource efficient future. Many of our members are already making great strides towards greener products and manufacturing processes, and mattress recycling across the whole of the UK has increased significantly in recent years. In November 2018 we announced an ambitious target for the industry of 75% diversion from landfill by 2028. Plainly, more needs to be done to reach that target and to do so in the most sustainable way possible.

“As the association representing a majority of the UK mattress manufacturers, we are delighted to be working closely with Zero Waste Scotland in what is a very exciting, challenging and necessary project. We hope the outcome will provide practical, workable solutions to some of those challenges for everyone across the UK involved in ensuring our mattresses are truly anchored in a sustainable, circular future, while also continuing to offer the market a full choice of options for a product that represents, quite literally, the foundation of a good night’s sleep.”

Notes For Editors

  • In 2016 there were 8 million mattresses sold in the UK, of which 93.5% were bought to replace old mattresses ready to be disposed of. Scotland represents 8.2% of the UK population and hence 8.2% of the mattress disposal. This calculation does not take into account Scotland’s larger tourist accommodation sector or other factors.
  • Of the mattresses in use in Scotland in 2017, nearly 90% were in households.
  • The number of mattresses disposed of in Scotland in 2017 was 596,348. Using Zero Waste Scotland’s Carbon Metric tool, the organisation estimates the carbon generated in the production of mattresses disposed of in Scotland that year as 47,708 CO2 equivalent. The Carbon Metric measures the whole-life carbon impacts of Scotland’s waste, from resource extraction and manufacturing emissions, right through to waste management emissions, regardless of where in the world these impacts occur. It is a pioneering way to measure the carbon impact of our waste, not just the amount that is recycled.
  • Mattresses are one of the most commonly flytipped items in Scotland. In Zero Waste Scotland’s recent survey, Evidence Review of Flytipping Behaviour (2017), 31% of people who had witnessed a small-scale flytipping incident said a mattress was among the items dumped.

 

 About Zero Waste Scotland

  • Zero Waste Scotland exists to create a society where resources are valued and nothing is wasted. The organisation’s goal is to help Scotland realise the economic, environmental and social benefits of making best use of the world’s limited natural resources.
  • More information on all Zero Waste Scotland’s programmes can be found at https://www.zerowastescotland.org.uk/. You can also keep up to date with the latest from Zero Waste Scotland though via our social media channels - Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn
  • The Scottish Government is the Managing Authority for the European Structural Funds 2014-20 Programme. For further information visit our website or follow @scotgovESIF.

About the National Bed Federation

  • Founded in 1912, the National Bed Federation is the recognised trade association representing UK and Irish manufacturers of mattresses, beds and their suppliers. Its members account for about 70% of total UK manufacturing by value.
  • More information on the work of the NBF and a list of its members can be found at www.bedfed.org.uk
  • The NBF has published three reports on the fate of mattresses at end of life in the past five years. In the latest report, published in August this year, it was estimated that there had been a 55% increase in the number of mattresses being handled by recyclers between 2015 and 2017, while the estimated recycling rate calculated as a percentage of new mattress replacement sales has increased from 15% in 2016 to 19% in 2017. All the reports can be viewed at www.bedfed.org.uk/nbf-recycle

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