New data reveals huge gap between UK Council’s provision for recycling mattresses – new website launched to help consumers boost recycling rates

Jan 10, 2024 | Mattresses

The worrying results of a new survey undertaken through Freedom of Information Act requests to every one of the UK’s 385 waste authorities in the UK, has highlighted a gulf between the best and worst performers in recycling bulky waste such as mattresses, and prompted the launch of a new website to aid consumers keen to recycle as much as possible.

In the midst of the six busiest weeks of the year for UK mattress sales, also the peak time for disposal, the survey data underlines why there is still widespread consumer confusion about how to dispose of an end-of-life mattress responsibly.

The research revealed significant variation in how councils across the country deal with the 6.4m mattresses thrown away every year in the UK. The figures showed Wales as the frontrunner, currently diverting all mattresses from landfill and recycling components in over 86% of council areas. Greater London was the only other area to achieve 100% diversion from landfill, with over 63% of councils sending mattress waste for recycling. Northern Ireland also performed well, with only 9% of councils transferring to landfill and over 63% sending for recycling.

In comparison, the number of councils using landfill remains highest in the East Midlands (over 43%), the North West (over 40%) and the East of England (over 34%). Incineration was most used in the South West with over 77% of councils generating energy from waste, followed by the East of England (over 44%) and Yorkshire and the Humber (over 43%). Recycling was utilised by as few as 11% of councils in parts of England.

With the survey highlighting the lack of a single, UK-wide resource providing information about how each local authority deals with this type of bulky waste, the National Bed Federation (NBF) [Bed Advice UK’s parent organisation], the trade association representing UK and Irish bed manufacturers and their component suppliers, has launched a new free to use portal www.mattressdisposal.co.uk. The website gives insight into how different parts of the UK are disposing of unwanted mattresses and the recycling of their various components, and to signpost consumers to the best options for recycling in their town or city.

Tom Williams of the NBF said: “Despite growing pressure from consumers for more environmentally-friendly mattress disposal options, it is disappointing to see such disparity across the UK with many regions and nations still a long way from reaching the NBF’s target of 75% mattress diversion from landfill by 2028. However, it must be pointed out that there are often valid reasons, beyond the local authority’s control, why they are not able to achieve higher levels of sustainability. For example, due to prohibitive costs or the lack of specialist recycling facilities. The vital thing is they continue to strive towards finding ‘greener’ solutions and learn from those that have made progress.

“With increased financial pressure on local authorities, we believe that the Government needs to support plans for a nationwide programme to fund a consistent service, perhaps combined with some type of Extended Producer Responsibilities (EPR) scheme, that make it easy for everyone to cost-effectively recycle their used mattresses.”

Methods of disposal also differed within councils, depending on whether the mattress travelled via a household waste recycling centre or a bulky collection service. The cost of mattress collection similarly amounted to a postcode lottery, with prices ranging from ‘free of charge’ to up to £76.30 – with a higher fee not necessarily equating to a greener route to disposal.

With mattresses classed as a ‘difficult waste’ within the recycling industry, a number of councils have partnered with specialist bulky waste collection companies which are working to improve re-use/recycling processes, with the aim of creating viable and affordable solutions for the ever-increasing market.

Williams added: “Not only has our comprehensive research, given a clearer picture of what’s happening to unwanted mattresses across the UK, it has also enabled us to create the first-ever dedicated mattress disposal portal, providing a free local search function alongside numerous resources, to make it easier for people to dispose of their mattresses responsibly.”

To find out more about how to dispose of mattresses in your local area visit www.mattressdisposal.co.uk

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