A cast-off mattress, destroyed for a good cause (and saved from a landfill) by Cameron Costa of Burlington-based Sleep Well Recycling on Aug. 17, 2020
Burlington Free Press
When a mattress bites the dust at Sleep Well Recycling in Burlington, human hands compose the noisy soundtrack of deconstruction.
Three employees — so far, just three — have for just three weeks muscled dozens of those unwieldy, unwanted loads onto something like a chopping block.
What sounds violent is really a prelude to something beautiful, owner and founder Josh Costa says: This is Vermont’s first-ever business devoted to recycling mattresses.
Knives slash fabric; sledgehammers pound steel coils from their wooden frames; racks of bent wire crash like cymbals when they’re stacked in a dumpster bound for metal salvage.
When the clamor subsides, Costa, 30, speaks quietly of his mission. He wants to rescue every old mattress in the state away from its accustomed entombment in a landfill — a burial that notoriously wastes precious space while its subject takes decades (if not longer) to disintegrate.
“We have about 350 mattresses here right now,” Costa said Tuesday, gesturing to what could be, in a theater, a credible set for “The Princess and the Pea.”
“It’s astounding what these would look like on a piece of land, in a landfill,” Costa said.
Also astounding: A week after opening the business in early August, an armada of discarded mattresses paid the first month’s rent on his Intervale Road warehouse several times over.
Hundreds more mattresses are in the pipeline from Spruce Peak resort, which is undergoing a massive upgrade to its bedding.
“It’s been an idea of mine for a long time,” said Costa, who is 30. “I’ve always wanted to get into garbage and junk in some capacity. And it turns out the arduous task of ripping up mattresses is the ticket to ride.”
‘Recycle well, sleep well’
The price tag on a mattress doesn’t include the cost of toting it to the dump.
Costa’s customers in the Burlington area pay in the neighborhood of $20 per mattress — about what they’d spend dropping it off for a truck ride to the Coventry landfill.
Less-than-conscientious residents ditch old mattresses on sidewalks and greenways, leaving the city or their landlords with the tab.
Costa offers a soul-salve to folks with qualms. His business motto: “Recycle Well, Sleep Well.”
Nuts, bolts, staples and ‘mystery stuff’
If properly separated after deconstruction, up to 95% of a mattress’ parts can be recycled, according to the Sleep Well Recycling website.
It’s a lofty, challenging target, Costa said, but he’s shooting for it:
- All Metals Recycling in Williston buys the spring assemblies.
- Foam padding similarly gets transformed into new products like underlay padding for carpets.
- Clean wood scraps are hauled to the nearby McNeil power plant to be burned as fuel.
- Intact, pine wooden box-spring frames are otherwise transformed: “We had 30 or so over the weekend,” Costa said. “I put them up for free on Facebook and people snagged every single one of them.”
- Fabric scraps are more difficult to market, he added, as is a “mystery stuff” — a black waterproof lining “that look like it’s made from recycled everything.”
Mattress recycling as stress-relief
Costa has seen his share of material cast-offs.
His first high-school job, in Nashua, New Hampshire, was sorting through lifeless electronics, separating out valuable metals.
After moving to Vermont to attend Champlain College, Costa worked with the local franchise of 1-800-GOT-JUNK, a haulage company.
He currently works full-time at Chittenden Solids Waste District’s Environmental Depot, managing hazardous waste.
Sleep Well Recycling, Costa said, is a side-gig that he couldn’t manage without his brother, Cameron, 20.
Cameron Costa, 20, cuts a fabric cover from a mattress he is disassembling at Sleep Well Recycling in Burlington on Aug. 17, 2020. (Photo: JOEL BANNER BAIRD/FREE PRESS)
The younger Costa has no official job title, his boss wrote in a text, “but Cam’s my right hand man, manager, #-1 workhorse, backbone/brains; he is the company Renaissance man and main ripper.”
Enrolled as a finance major at Babson College in Massachusetts, Cameron said he’s on board as long as the semester’s classes remain online.
These are uncertain, even overwhelming times, Cameron added. “But here, you can just forget about your worries and rip up some mattresses.”
What can you do with your old mattress?
Chittenden Solid Waste District, which stopped accepting mattresses at its drop-off facilities this spring due to pandemic-related logistic challenges, will again welcome them (and other bulky furniture items) within a few weeks.
Casella Waste Systems, which typically relies on CSWD to deliver discarded mattresses to its transfer station in Williston for landfill disposal, is currently is accepting drop-offs for a $15.86 fee. Pick-ups run $25 – $50, depending on location and circumstances.
Myers Container Service charges $35 for mattresses dropped off at its Colchester transfer station. Mattresses are hauled to a landfill.
Josh Costa, 30, founder and owner of Sleep Well Recycling, stands next to a pile of mostly disassembled mattresses at his warehouse in Burlington on Aug. 17, 2020. (Photo: JOEL BANNER BAIRD/FREE PRESS)
Contact Joel Banner Baird at 802-660-1843 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @VTgoingUp.
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