Rest In Peace Recycling employee Gregory Gibson loads discarded mattresses at the Tulare County on Friday, January 4, 2019. More than 100 are disposed here every week. (Photo: Ron Holman)
Lucas Feldstein stood a few feet away from a big-rig tractor trailer being loaded with mattresses heading to a recycling plant.
Three Visalia landfill workers dragged, pulled, lifted and stacked the growing tower of rusting springs and stained cotton.
“They come three times a week,” said Feldstein, who’s with the county’s solid waste department. “Sometimes, they fill two trailers.”
Through the “Bye Bye Mattress” program, Tulare County residents properly disposed of an estimated 30,000 mattresses last year, according to officials. Across the state, the program has recycled more than 3 million mattresses since 2016.
The increasing numbers don’t mean mattresses still aren’t tossed on the side of rural roads, but it’s a start in getting them properly to a landfill.
“Reaching this milestone in less than three years of operation is a significant achievement,” said Mike O’Donnell, Mattress Recycling Council’s managing director.
MRC oversees the program, which also recycles mattresses collected by retailers, hotels, universities and other sources that discard mattresses in large volumes.
“The Bye Bye Mattress Program exemplifies California’s leadership in a sustainable and circular economy by creating green jobs,” O’Donnell said. “We’ve made progress toward reducing our environmental footprint, conserving landfill space and supporting California’s statewide recycling goals.”
The number of recycled mattresses makes Tulare County one of the highest contributors to the effort, Feldstein said.
Most of the materials in each mattress can be recycled, O’Donnell said. As much as 80 percent of the material in a mattress can be reused.
The program is funded through a recycling fee collected when consumers buy mattresses and box springs in California. MRC uses the fee to establish free drop-off locations and collection events.
There are 12 Tulare County locations.
The foam from mattresses is for carpet padding and the wood from spring boxes are chipped and used as landscape mulch. The springs are sold as scrap steel, which is melted to make building materials and other items.
Nathan Garza, Visalia’s Natural Resource Conservation technician, gave the program two thumbs up.
“It has been a great benefit to know the mattresses will get a second life,” he said.
The national program is expected to net an estimated 1.5 million units this year.
Keeping the streets clean
The program has also proven beneficial in the effort to prevent illegal dumping.
The program has helped remove 63,000 improperly disposed-of mattresses from alleys, sidewalks and other public spaces in California over the last three years.
In Tulare County, inmates with a supervisor are tasked with picking up the mattresses tossed to the side of streets.
On a recent afternoon, illegally dumped mattresses were spotted in empty fields off Houston Avenue, not far from Ben Maddox Way and Goddard Street.
Some Visalia residents pick up and store unwanted mattresses until there is a free disposal event or can take them to a landfill, Garza said.
At free disposal events, participants can deliver up to 150 mattresses. Visalia’s next disposal day is Saturday.
“We are pleased with this program,” Garza said. “We can use the landfills for true waste.”
More: Fire destroys Farmersville recycling center, damages homes
More: Visalia’s split trash cans going away, but recyclables are stacking up nationwide
More: The price of doing away with plastic
Read or Share this story: https://www.visaliatimesdelta.com/story/news/2019/01/11/mattress-recycling-program-success-so-far/2472248002/