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Mandatory Mattress Recycling in Massachusetts? There’s Digital Tools for That

As Municipalities and organizations everywhere are making strides and brainstorming ways to decrease their solid waste totals, more and more entities are recognizing the importance and imperity of recycling textiles and mattresses.

In Massachusetts, the need to cut back on waste disposal paired with other factors have sparked new Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection Waste Disposal Bans, which take effect Nov. 1, 2022. In its 2030 Solid Waste Master Plan, MassDEP calls for a 30% statewide reduction of waste disposal over the next decade, with a long-term goal to reduce waste disposal by 90% by 2050.

To help meet those goals, MassDEP will now ban the disposal — and transport for disposal — of textiles and mattresses in Massachusetts. This includes all sizes of mattresses, from crib mattresses to California Kings, full-foam, latex mattresses and more.

The new regulations also limit the disposal and lower the threshold of organic waste — including food — from businesses and other commercial institutions that dispose of more than one ton of these materials per week.

Enacting these regulations now is especially timely in light of the exponential growth of the fast-fashion and easy-to-order bed-in-a-box industries. More than 100 billion garments are now produced annually, according to an article published by McKinsey & Company. For every five garments produced, the equivalent of three pieces of clothing are taken to a landfill or are incinerated every year, McKinsey says.

Mattresses are also being discarded at an alarming rate. In Massachusetts alone, about 600,000 mattresses and box springs are discarded each year, according to MassDEP. Multiple sources report that some 15 to 18 million mattresses with box springs are disposed of in the United States annually.

And the space they occupy adds up fast, nevermind the hefty costs to transport them and the damage they may cause to processing equipment.

The good news is that mattresses are made up nearly entirely of recyclable materials, according to MassDEP. Once disassembled, more than 75% of mattress components can be recycled, the organization notes.

Mattress Madness: A Hauler Hot Take

While Massachusetts prepares to meet its upcoming regulations and other states consider doing the same, many haulers and municipalities may worry how they’ll be impacted by the changes. Can existing recycling infrastructure handle the processing of these materials? How on earth can haulers and cities ensure compliance?

While Massachusetts offers many resources for finding recycling companies that process mattresses, municipalities and haulers that generate and transport solid waste are still tasked with meeting these regulations in the first place. According to regulations, one mattress in a compaction truck tipped at the landfill is enough for a hauler or municipality to potentially face a penalty for a “failed load.”

According to MassDEP, the agency will ultimately determine the appropriate compliance and enforcement response after reviewing these failed loads, the origins of failed loads, and whether the waste generator may be identified.

Typically, MassDEP issues waste-ban enforcement only to businesses and institutions such as municipalities and waste haulers rather than individuals. This means that it will be up to municipalities and haulers to educate the people they serve about the ban and work to enforce compliance.

To carry out this work, communication efforts with the people and businesses they serve will be paramount for municipalities and hauling businesses — especially when it comes to hotels, colleges, universities and other establishments that potentially may dispose of a great number of beds.

Connect the Dots through Digital Tools

Organizing and orchestrating any new recycling program is an undertaking, to be sure, but there are resources you can lean on to get the job done. For example, ReCollect’s suite of digital waste and recycling communication tools can help cities and haulers digitize education and outreach programs, provide people with a plethora of information and meet people where they already are: on their smart devices and computers.

Through MassDEP grants and other assistance, Massachusetts has developed new infrastructure to collect and divert items banned from the landfill and more — and digital communication tools can fit into that infrastructure. While these tools serve a number of purposes and solve myriad issues, here are just a few tools that could help companies and municipalities conform to waste bans, including MassDEP’s new regulations:

  • The Special Collection Tool: This easy-to-use scheduling tool allows people to schedule special pickups (mattresses and box springs included!) and pay for the service, too. It also helps lower your call volumes and curb illegal dumping.
  • The Collection Calendar: This digital product displays your curbside collection calendar in digital format, allows you to convey information and education through alert messages and campaigns and more, including reminders about special pick-up dates; recycling drop-off sites; what can or must be recycled, like mattresses or food waste, and how much.
  • The Waste Wizard: This digital tool helps people recycle right by teaching people what items go in which bins. With its predictive search and synonym detection, it quickly recognizes what people need to know, and provides them with an answer — like how and where to properly dispose of mattresses, clothing and other textiles.
  • Mobile App: Through the custom-branded mobile app, you can communicate and engage with the people you serve. Use it to share timely and accurate information regarding your recycling and solid waste programs, show them how and where to properly dispose of or recycle any given item, request special collections and more.

Each of these tools may be integrated into your existing website or mobile app, too.

Tried and True

Effective waste and recycling communications can be challenging, but ReCollect’s suite of digital education and outreach tools can alleviate stress for you and your team, conserve time and resources and allow you to better reach the people you serve.

For instance, residents of Cambridge, MA, may easily schedule a free mattress and box spring pickup at their convenience through the city’s Mattress/Box Spring collection tool. In partnership with the nonprofit UTEC, the city provides free curbside collections for mattresses and box springs, which not only will comply with the upcoming state regulations, but it also helps the city work toward its zero waste goals, too.

In addition to arranging pickups through the scheduling tool, Cambridge’s Waste Wizard / “Get Rid of it Right” tool helps people search for any given item for quick information about how to properly dispose of it — mattresses of all types and sizes included.

The City of Lowell, MA, also provides its community with many of these tools. Through its website, folks may search for items through its “Recyclopedia” Waste Wizard tool to figure out how to properly dispose of a range of items, easily routing people to UTEC’s website for quick pickup scheduling, and providing people with an easy-to-read fee structure for other bulky-item collections.

Helping Each Other Help the Planet

As MassDEP says, waste bans on any item not only boost recycling and support the industry, but they also help us save energy, reduce emissions, conserve valuable resources and decrease our reliance on landfills and incinerators, too.

If you’re considering adding a mattress and textile collection program to your recycling repertoire, let’s talk. Book a demo with ReCollect Waste Reduction and Recycling Specialist Kinsey Elliott today.