Mattresses & Illegal Dumping

Illegally dumped mattress in a bush.The other day I saw this article on the illegal dumping of mattresses in Vancouver. Now, mattresses are a bit of a soap box issue for me to begin with, but seriously, a 3-fold increase in people just dumping their mattresses wherever they want in the last decade? You have got to be kidding me!

Illegal dumping in general is something that costs tax payers tremendous amounts of time and money, much MUCH more than if the person took their stuff to the landfill and paid the fee. But here’s the kicker, mattresses specifically are completely recyclable. And they end up in landfills (and back alleys) All. The. Time.

Now as we move collectively away from large vehicles and more towards public or active transportation we are going to have to figure out what to do with bulky household waste like mattresses, the couch you inherited from your Great Grandma and the kitchen table you’ve been carting around since college. Because honestly, when was the last time you saw someone with a mattress on a bus. NEVER! And that’s not just because the bus doesn’t go to the landfill!

In BC we have these great organizations called stewards. They brought us the plans to return drink containers for deposit, the ability to recycle our heavy metal laden electronics and all that paint you’ve been storing in your shed because you might need it later. I personally think these programs have probably staved off a divorce or two because there’s much less guilt when you recycle these products. What is the next evolution in stewardship programming in this province of ours? I would say that mattresses fit the bill perfectly!

First, mattresses are a pain in the almighty patooty! If you’ve ever moved, you know what I”m talking about. And if you haven’t discovered the joys of a split box spring, your experience likely sounded a lot like this episode of Friends! Second, getting your mattress to a second hand store, transfer station, or landfill is not easy if you do not have appropriate transportation for this task. Third, thrift stores often have to dispose of them anyway because people that donated them to avoid paying fees on them. And fourth, when your mattress gets to the landfill they are super annoying to manage. For the same reasons the sales person listed when you bought it, these items don’t really compact. This leaves them “floating” around within the active face and generally making a nuisance of themselves until the end of time.

There are places that you can drop off mattresses for reuse if they’re still in good condition but most do not pick up or deliver, so we face the same transportation issues getting the mattress to it’s new home as we did before. There are even places that recycle mattresses. They take them all apart and sort them into their component parts, bale and ship them off for processing. These places employ people that need to get paid for their time and efforts towards saving the planet from roving hoards of zombie mattresses. This means that you usually have to pay to drop them off.  Most people would rather spend that $20 on a coffee or a 649 ticket and we’ve cycled back to our illegal dumping issue. Oh, and all of these places are in the Vancouver area and transporting a truck full of mattresses down from here for recycling is a costly endeavour no matter how big your soap box is.

So, if I had one stewardship wish, it would be that mattresses were managed by an organization responsible for mattresses all over the province. They could come to your house or apartment and pick up the unruly mattresses (and maybe other furniture too?). Then the mattresses would be delivered to the fantastic  recycling place and stop floating around our back alleys, ditches and landfills.