In partnership with North London Waste Authority, LondonEnergy set up a trial back in June 2021 and within just ten weeks, had recycled a phenomenal 18,000 mattresses. Moreover, by Christmas of the same year, that number had hit the 44,000 mark.
An estimated 7 million mattresses are thrown away every year, of which only 20% are recycled. The lack of recycling capacity has been an issue as has the expense associated with transporting mattresses. Previously in north London, all mattresses collected at the RRCs, via council bulky waste collections and fly-tips were shredded and went to energy from waste. Now, whilst there’s no change to the responsibility placed on the residents, they can be comfortable in the knowledge that their mattresses are being disposed of in a more environmentally friendly way.
Mattresses are an item which no household can do without and yet are notoriously difficult to recycle. This is owing to the many different components found inside. LondonEnergy has entrusted this complex task to a third-party specialist who deconstruct the mattresses by hand, a process which produces a higher rate and quality of recyclable materials recovered. In some higher quality mattresses, up to 17 different materials can obtained from the recycling process, ranging from the obvious steel and cotton, which have established recycling route, through to horse and coconut hair which have no current market but can be used as a biomass application. 100% of these materials are diverted directly away from landfill and only 15% end up as waste to energy. What’s more, the recycling service is completely free for residents – they can book and take them to the RRC or arrange a kerbside collection.
Emma Hiney, Waste Operations Manager for LondonEnergy, comments: “As the operator of waste disposal facilities for the seven north London boroughs, LEL have always been amazed at the volume of mattresses thrown away. We were therefore extremely pleased to facilitate a mattress recycling trial with a third-party specialist to recycle these materials. Following on from this trial, we are pleased to announce that we will shortly be starting a long-term contract with our recycling partner so will continue to drive more recovered resources into the circular economy.”
Chair of North London Waste Authority, Cllr Clyde Loakes, said: “In the UK we throw away over 7 million mattresses a year and we estimate 2.9 million of these come to an early end. We can help reduce this significant environmental impact if we all make better choices when it comes to buying, caring for and disposing of our beds. A mattress can and should be recycled at the end of its life and this service should be available nationwide. Most councils will also collect large items from your home, either for free or for a small fee. It would be great to see more consumers using their purchasing power to use a retailer take back scheme only if they can guarantee your old mattress will be recycled.”
The mattress recycling strategy forms part of LondonEnergy’s drive to increase overall recycling rates in North London and improve sustainability engagement within the community.