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Mattress manufacturers urge EPR scheme

The number of mattresses sent for recycling continues to rise in the UK and Ireland but manufacturers fear they will miss their 2028 target of diverting 75% from landfill without an extended producer responsibility (EPR) scheme.

The National Bed Federation’s (NBF’s) fourth report on mattress recycling indicates that 24% of end-of-life mattresses were sent for recycling in 2021, up from 19% in 2017. However, what the NBF calls the ‘real’ rate of recycling – the recovery of mattresses or their components and materials after sorting and processing – is estimated at only 14%.

Simon Spinks, chair of the NBF’s Circular Economy Committee, says: ‘The positive take from this new report is that, in the eight years since we have been looking at the data, the proportion of end-of-life mattresses sent for recycling has more than doubled – from just 10% to around 24%. 

‘Less good news is that the real rate of recycling is significantly lower and we are still a long way short of our target of 75% diversion from landfill in the next six years. It is clear to us that intervention in the form of an EPR scheme is required.’

‘The 2022 End of Life Mattress Report’, produced for NBF by environmental consultants Oakdene Hollins, identifies key areas for improvement include collection, reprocessing, developing end markets and designing for end-of-life.

The report also aims to show how an EPR scheme would facilitate a more comprehensive and harmonised approach to the waste management of mattresses. The NBF has already worked closely with Zero Waste Scotland on an outline business case for EPR for mattresses, which has recommended a UK-wide, industry led, mandatory scheme as the best option.

Although take back schemes operated by retailers are growing, most mattresses are handled by local authorities. This is seen as a haphazard approach with a lack of incentives to recycle frequently cited.

The report also addresses how manufacturers can improve recovery by designing their new products with increased circularity in mind, for example by using more recycled materials and designing for ease of assembly.

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