Mattress Disposal and Recyclying Guide
Research by Ryan Fiorenzi
Updated April 20, 2019
Mattresses last on average around 7 years, depending on the type of mattress you have. Throwing your used mattress in the garbage means it will end up in a landfill. According to Bed Times, 50,000 mattresses are discarded each day in the United States. This is a problem because many mattresses have flame retardants and other toxic chemicals in them that can end up in the groundwater supply. Innerspring mattresses have coils inside that can cause problems for machines at landfills as well. Mattresses in landfills can interact with other chemicals and microbes let off methane and carbon dioxide, resulting in greenhouse gases that negatively affect the planet.
Because of these reasons and more, we are often asked about how to dispose of a mattress the right way. There are many great options for donating, reusing, recycling or properly disposing of mattresses that we will highlight below.
- Many organizations accept donations of good condition mattresses.
- Selling a used mattress can be controversial, but many find success with it.
- Recycling facilities can make use of nearly every part of the mattress.
- Upcyclying through DIY projects is the most manually intensive but can be very rewarding for those inclined.
- Mattress disposal through a junk removal service is sometimes the only option in remote areas.
- Don't forget about other items in the bedroom. Blankets are one of the most requested items in homeless shelters, and pillows can make great donations at animal shelters.
Assessing Your Mattress
There are several factors that may influence how you'll be able to dispose of your mattress.
- Wear and tear: it's recommended to replace your mattress every 8-15 years, depending on the type of mattress you have. Some people replace their mattress sooner for several reasons, one of the main ones being that their mattress no longer gives the support it used to. Check your mattress for sagging and uneven spots. If you find that you sink into your mattress, or have a hard time getting up out of your mattress, it's probably time to replace it.
- Bed bugs: visible to the naked eye, bed bugs are red, brown, or white, and have 6 legs. They will cause your skin to be irritated and itchy. If you have bed bus, don't donate your mattress to a charity organization. If you call a junk removal service, tell them that the mattress has bed bugs. They will ask you to have a pest removal company treat and wrap the mattress.
- Mold & bacteria: look for discoloring on your mattress, and notice if there's a smell. If your mattress has mold or bacteria, don't donate it to charity.
If your mattress isn't in that bad of a condition, there are several things you may be able to do that will give you more time with your current mattress.
- Replace your wooden slats. Not all bed frames have these, but if yours does, the wood can become bent over time and even broken.
- Put a piece of plywood under your mattress. Sometimes a simple and cheap fix like this will give you more support and prevent your mattress from sagging.
- Use mattress covers. These are covers that completely surround your mattress and are usually zipped up on one side. They'll often be made out of a material that will reduce your allergen exposure. Mattress covers can help keep your mattress from flattening out, giving you better support.
- Mattress pads. These come in a few different materials such as gel, foam, and memory foam. Beware that these products are often used to make your mattress softer. Foam tends to make you sleep warmer, gel will take much longer to heat up.
You may know a college student, friend, or family member that could use your mattress. There also are many organizations that will be happy to take your mattress, as long as it's in good condition. Churches, women's shelters, homeless shelters, refugee resettlement groups. Thrift stores are another option, though they may not accept it due to concerns about bedbugs.
Furniture Bank Association of America
The Furniture Bank Association of America offers home furnishings to low-income families at little to no cost. They will pick up from your home as long as you're within a 20-mile radius of one of their centers.
The Salvation Army currently accepts mattresses in most states and communities. They are a charitable organization designed to help families and individuals in need. They may even pick up your mattress, or you can drop it off. Every donation you make is tax-deductible. Be sure to find your local salvation army and call ahead as treatment may vary at each locations.
Habitat for Humanity
A non-profit organization whose purpose is to help those in need, you can donate your mattress in person, or possibly get your mattress picked up at your home. As with the other charities, be sure to call your local Habitat for Humanity to see if they accept used mattresses.
Some Goodwill locations, like Silicon Valley, accept mattresses. Be sure to check in with your local Goodwill to see if they offer mattress or box spring recycling.
There are many other great places to donate mattresses to directly. Local shelters are a good place to start. There are websites like Donation Town that have FAQ's and search features set up to help make finding a charity that will pick up your mattress for free.
How you cared for your mattress is important. Mattresses that were encased in a mattress protector or other waterproof encasement last much longer. Depending on the construction of your mattress, the foundation or frame can be important as well.
Research Local Laws First
Be sure to read up on the laws for where you live. We also have to mention that you should ask an actual lawyer. The FTC's stance on selling mattresses is:
"Yes, in most parts of the country, used mattresses can be resold as long as they meet certain labeling and processing requirements."
Many states have specific laws that need to be considered so be sure to take a few minutes to look. Some communities within a state may also have ordinances.
Craigslist and Other Online Marketplaces
Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, and other community-based websites can be a great option. You take pictures of your mattress, write a description, and for no fee you can post your listing to a local listing and interested parties will contact you to come to see it and possibly buy it. Keep in mind that sellers are not typically obligated to deliver the mattress.
The Mattress Recycling Council estimates that more than 80% of mattresses can be recycled. Mattresses can be broken down into many parts. They will go on to serve many other purposes besides sitting in a dump. Once they are cleaned and processed, they can be broken down into things like wood for mulch, melted metal for many uses, fabrics for matting and textiles, foams for carpet padding, and plastics for recycled applications.
You may be able to take your mattress to a nearby recycling center, where most of the mattress can be reused to create new products. You will usually have to pay a fee which is often $10 to $20. You can find recycling centers at Earth911.com.
California, Rhode Island, and Connecticut have drop-off sites through bye bye mattress for mattress owners and retailers. These states have enacted mattress recycling legislation to help consumers recycle their mattress and box spring at no cost.
All major cities in North America have mattress recycling programs. You'll need a large enough vehicle to bring the mattress to the recycling center, although some centers will pick it up. Some items that may cause them to deny taking it are:
- mattresses that are wet, moldy, or dirty
- used mattress toppers
- collapsible roll-away beds
- pillows and sleeping bags
- camping beds
- air mattresses
- mattresses with bed bugs
Break Down the Mattress Yourself
If you're handy and have an innerspring mattress you can take it apart yourself. Use a razor to cut the fabric so you can expose the foam and box spring. Detach the foam and fabric from the wood, then use a saw to cut the wooden box spring into smaller pieces that you can burn. The steel inner springs can be sold at a scrap metal yard. You can then take the foam and fabric to a recycling center or find another purpose for it.
Call Your Curbside Recycle Collector
Find out if your curbside collection service will recycle your mattress. Your recycle collector may be willing to pick up your mattress for a small fee or for free. There may be certain times of the year that they offer this service, and there may be specific instructions you have to follow.
Ask Your Mattress Retailer
Sometimes the company you're buying your new mattress from will pick up your old mattress for a small fee or even for free. Be sure to do your research as many of the online brands will have a third party pick the bed up for donation or recycling depending on the type of bed and its condition.
Upcycle Your Mattress
You can turn parts of your mattress into another product. Bob Vila has seven projects for your old bedsprings, such as using box springs to create a wine rack or a table. Most of these lead to a very industrial look.
There are hundreds of other creative DIY ideas on Pinterest; there are even items tagged as mattress upcycle. Some of our favorites include outdoor zen daybeds, industrial couches, heavy duty shelving, and even a garden trellis.
Junk Removal Services
The manufacturer or seller of your mattress may offer a buy-back or mattress disposal service.
Before you look at hiring a junk removal service, the manufacturer or seller of your mattress may offer a buy-back or mattress disposal service, which will be free or cheap.
If that's not an option, and you don't have any charities nearby where you can donate your mattress, or any recycling services or centers, there are several services that will pick up your mattress for a fee. Be sure to shop in your area because prices can vary significantly. Some of the most popular options are 1-800-GOT-JUNK, or 1-888-Trash-it.
1-800-GOT-JUNK will take all kinds of items, including appliances, televisions, refrigerators, carpeting, hot tubs, furniture, electronics, bicycles, printer, monitors, computers, as well as yard waste, garbage, tires, and scrap metal. You schedule your mattress removal online or by calling. They give you a 2-hour window, and they'll call you 15-30 minutes before they arrive. When they arrive, they'll tell you the cost, then take it away. They will recycle and donate the mattress whenever possible. If your mattress has bed bugs, so not every location will accept the mattress (it depends on the rules of the city). When you call, let them know that your mattress has bed bugs and if they can accept it, they ask that you have a pest control company treat and wrap your mattress before they arrive.
1-888-Trash-it calculates a price based on how much space your mattress and other stuff takes up in their truck.
There has been a significant emphasis on landfill conservation over recent years so you may find that these companies will recycle or donate your mattress rather than simply dispose of it. This option will be one of the most expensive ways to get rid of your mattress, often costing between $100 to $150 (depending on the size of the mattress).
Other Bedroom Products that can be Recycled
Mattresses aren't the only item in your bedroom that you can reuse, sell or recycle. With limited effort and creativity, there are many other common products that can live a second life.
Blankets and Sheets - One of the most frequently requested items at homeless shelters and donation centers is blankets. There are also many DIY options for blankets, throws, and sheets to choose from online.
Pillows - While mattresses typically need to be replaced every 10 years, pillows typically should be replaced every 2 or 3 years. Here are some great alternatives to throwing them away:
- Use them for filler in boxes to protect items when you are moving. Some foam pillows can be cut to an appropriate size.
- You can DIY throw pillows, travel pillows or bolster pillows for a bench.
- Draft stoppers can be easily made with old pillow stuffing to insulate doors or old windows.
- Create a pet bed or donate to an animal shelter.
- Make large floor cushions from many old pillows through pre-made cushion covers (or sew your own).
- Gardening can really beat up your knees, so creating a DIY kneeling pad can really pay off. Just be sure to use a sturdy pillowcase that is outdoors safe.
Dressers and Bookshelves - Solid wood furniture can be repaired and refinished for lifetimes. Cheaper furniture like those made out of particle board can also be given new life as well with a little effort.
Bedframes - Metal furniture is tough to refinish, but it can be done. Many people choose to sell or donate this type of furniture through places like their local salvation army, craigslist, facebook marketplace and freecycle. You can also locate your local scrap metal recycling center to see if they will accept it.