Regional mattress recycling program sees strong response

By BELLA LEVAVI

Staff Writer

Published: 01-27-2023 4:17 PM

Two and a half months after the launch of a regional mattress recycling program, it’s reported that 165 mattresses have been recycled.

“It’s been really quite successful and amazing,” commented Jan Ameen, executive director of the Franklin County Solid Waste Management District, referencing statistics as of Jan. 12.

Franklin County’s mattress recycling plan began in November after the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection added mattresses and textiles to the list of materials banned from the trash. These new additions came from MassDEP’s Solid Waste Master Plan, which established the goal to reduce waste disposal statewide by 30% (from 5.7 million tons in 2018 to 4 million tons in 2030) over the next decade, according to the state’s website.

Ameen applied for five grants — each up to $10,000 — to pay for storage facilities at county transfer stations, where mattresses can be brought to and later recycled. She was awarded the grants in July and added recycling containers at the Colrain, Bernardston, Deerfield, Montague and Wendell transfer stations. These five sites serve residents of the waste management district’s 21 member towns, through mattresses are also accepted at the Greenfield Transfer Station (with an added fee for out-of-town residents) and at the Orange Transfer Station for those who have an annual permit.

All regional mattress recycling sites charge $35 per mattress or box spring, regardless of size. Foam and crib mattresses are also accepted.

According to Ameen, the towns with the host site have benefited the most from the program, stating that a majority of mattresses being recycled have come from residents from each of the five locations. The Deerfield Transfer Station has been most used by non-residents, according to Ameen, which shows that people are willing to make the drive for recycling.

“I think the system is working so far,” Wendell Transfer Station Superintendent Carl Johnson said. He explained he was able to accept most mattresses coming in and, on the first day the program started, four were dropped off from New Salem.

Four containers have already been shipped out for recycling, with an average of 41 mattresses in each. Mattresses are stacked into the container and packed tightly to maximize space. The price set for the cost to recycle mattresses was estimated at 35 to 40 mattresses per container, but so far each container has gone above that estimate.

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“The highest stack was in Montague with 49 mattresses,” Ameen said. “I don’t know how they even did that.”

Ameen said she approached the Gardner-based Raw Material Recovery Corporation to purchase storage containers for each town at a price of $5,200 apiece. The bills for the collection of the mattress storage containers — it costs $325 to haul them from Colrain and Deerfield, and $225 to take them from Montague, Bernardston and Wendell, plus a fee of $15 per mattress — are paid by the Franklin County Solid Waste Management District. The organization then sends an invoice to the respective towns, Ameen explained previously. After six months, the district will give any excess money back to the host towns.

Ameen also noted there was an extremely quick turnaround for this program, adding that it was put together in August and implemented by November. According to Ameen, only seven mattresses have been rejected so far. Mattresses that are wet or have blood, urine or mold stains cannot be recycled and must be thrown out.

Craig Underwood, an attendant at the Colrain Transfer Station, said mattresses are slowly coming into their recycling container, though he said several soiled mattresses had to be thrown away.

Ameen said the Franklin County Solid Waste Management District has been adding new recycling programs for decades. The work takes a lot of planning and anticipating what problems might arise.

“Every program is slightly different; composting, sharps, or mattresses all have the same overall components,” Ameen continued.

Ameen said she focuses on the public education aspect of each program — saying there is lots of lingo in the industry — but has to present the material as simply and as widely as possible.

“I know there are going to be new programs coming down the line,” Johnson said in Wendell. “I keep learning the new rules and will try to educate the rest of the town.”

Bella Levavi can be reached at blevavi@recorder.com or 413-930-4579.

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