A rebounding problem


It is estimated nearly 300,000 mattresses and bases are sent to landfill every year in New Zealand. When stacked one on top of another, they would reach the edge of space!

Initiative: Rebound, a voluntary product stewardship programme for end-of-life mattresses and bases
Client: A 3R-initiated programme to tackle a prevalent waste issue
Brief: Work with industry, councils and landfill operators to provide a simple and accessible solution enabling consumers to responsibly dispose of unwanted mattresses and bases
3R Role: Initiator, project manager and on-going programme manager
3R Approach: Industry collaboration

Rebound_TimelineWaste to resource

The Rebound project was initiated by 3R following discussions with mattress manufacturers and observations of international developments in mattress stewardship and recycling.

Our experience designing and delivering stewardship and waste-to-resource programmes means we know there can be a better environmental outcome for mattress materials. This was reinforced by the success of international programmes.

And so, in February 2015, 3R invited industry stakeholders to join a collaborative cross-sector project team to help develop a programme.

Proven concept

International recycling programmes and our own recycling trials show that we could potentially recycle between 70% and 8o% of mattress materials.

An average mattress is made of steel springs and wood (both 100% recyclable), polyurethane foam which can be recycled into foam carpet underlay, coir – a natural product from coconut fibre with various reuse options – and textiles (currently non-recyclable).

Funding will be provided by the industry, local and central government, and consumers.

Problematic waste stream

3R were aware that unwanted mattresses are not simply a problem for consumers when they are no longer needed but part of a much wider issue.

Anecdotal evidence, confirmed by research during the project phase, showed that councils regularly deal with illegal dumping, while charities get unwanted donations of mattresses they cannot sell and have to pay to dispose of them.

Further down the waste stream, landfill operators find mattresses difficult to handle as they are bulky, not easily compactable, cause issues during gas pipe drilling and they get caught in machinery, which poses health and safety risks for staff.

There are also general health risks to consider, as it’s suggested that at the end of its life a mattress weighs 50% more due to moisture and organic contamination.

Weighty benefits

With an estimated 300,000 units discarded annually, a mattress recycling programme could divert up to 7 million kilograms of material from landfill.

Less waste to landfill means these sites can serve their communities longer. while recycling materials reduces the need for virgin materials to be produced, which in turn reduces carbon emissions and waste created during their processing.

The dismantling and collection processes can support social and community enterprises by creating jobs, while the recovered materials, like foam. metal and wood, can feed new business opportunities.

Creating this synergy of economic and environmental benefit, which also supports the development of a circular economy in New Zealand, is something 3R is passionate about.

For bed manufacturers and distributors there is a positive spin off in providing such a broad range of benefits from what is a simple problem for their customers – what to do with an unwanted mattress. According to Colmar Brunton’s “Better Future, Better Business” reports, consumers care, and they are looking for brands and organisations that do too.

Want to get involved?

If you manufacture, import or sell mattresses and bases in New Zealand you are in the best position to not only help us make the solution a reality, but to benefit from proven consumer demand for a positive disposal option for mattresses and bases.

Get in touch to play your part in this unique sustainability story.

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