Transfer Site Drop-off Hasn’t Slowed Mattress Recycling

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Date: Wednesday, April 21 2021
Mattresses, box springs accepted at 3100 East 17th Ave., off Franklin Blvd.
Box-spring frames await their turn on the shear, which will separate metal from wood.
Relentless shear holds wood frames in place as springs and staples are scraped off in a single pass.
When it comes to deconstruction of soft materials, the hand is mightier than the machine.
The clamshell baler has munched a half dozen sets of springs into a compact bale.

Are you lying awake, tossing and turning night after night because you heard St. Vinnie's won't accept your old mattress at the drive-through donation centers?

Relax. You can rest easy on a new set knowing you’ve done your part for the landfill. If you’re purchasing new with delivery, ask the retailer to haul away your old set.

Or, if you’re able, take the old set to the Lane County waste-transfer site at 3100 East 17th Ave., off Franklin Blvd. For $12 per piece, your clean dry mattress and box springs will be placed in a trailer bound for SVdP’s mattress-recycling shop, as are used mattresses collected by partnering retailers.

Considering the shutdown that stunned SVdP early in the COVID-19 pandemic, the agency will live with this change in mattress handling for the foreseeable future. Meanwhile the mattress shop has stayed busy all along and is processing 3,000 pieces per month, on average, according to facility manager Art Taylor.

“Processed” means deconstructed into components that can be marketed as commodities: metal from springs, foam padding, padded covers, and more. Launched by SVdP in Eugene in 1990, mattress recycling sustains five full-time jobs in Eugene, including mattress strippers, and operators of specialized equipment.

A shear holds box springs in place as a steel blade passes over, scraping the metal from the wood. The clamshell baler accepts a half dozen tangles of springs then closes its gaping mouth as they are compressed for handling.

Mattresses tower as they await deconstruction. Elsewhere, bales of metal, padded mattress tops, and foam are pending sale. Recycled foam is used in carpet padding and pet bedding. Fabric fibers go into industrial filters. Reclaimed wood can be used as fuel or mulch.

As importantly, the materials do not go into the landfill, where mattresses and box springs are notorious for toxicity, wasted space, and jammed equipment. They haven’t since 1990 when SVdP signed its first service contract with Lane County.

The Agency has since developed DR3, a chain of three mattress recyclers serving Central California. California, Connecticut and Rhode Island have adopted mattress-stewardship legislation that requires fees to be collected at the time mattresses/box springs are purchased to cover handling at the end of their useful lives, and to divert component materials to uses outside the landfill.

Back in Oregon, SB 276, which would enact mattress-stewardship legislation statewide, was introduced in the 2019 session and is awaiting action by the Ways and Means Committee.