Boston, Massachusetts – Massachusetts will join the growing list of US states that will ban the disposal of old mattresses in landfill on 1 November 2022. With similar bans already in place in California, Oregon, and Massachusetts’ neighbours Rhode Island and Connecticut, it will become the fifth. More than 600,000 mattresses and boxsprings are disposed of within Massachusetts every year.
Further legislation was introduced in 2019 by state senator Ed Kennedy that would establish an extended producer responsibility law in the state; it is currently with the state’s Ways and Means committee. Mattress-makers would have to set up and run recycling programmes to make it easy for consumers to recycle their old mattresses and boxsprings, and make it easier for local cities and counties to manage the bulky waste. A small fee collected from the consumers at point of sale would help to fund it.
Kennedy’s bill, S.2922, also includes a proposal to create a commission that would look at the financial and environmental impacts of end-of-life mattress management. And, importantly, it explicitly states that nonprofit organisations should be eligible for mattress recycling contracts, protecting the social enterprises that are already active within Massachusetts.
One of these social enterprises, run by Lowell-based UTEC, is housed in an old textile mill in the North Shore town of Lawrence, and is set to move to a larger facility a couple of miles away to cope with the growing demand. Mattress recycling is one of several programmes operated by the nonprofit, which was set up more than 20 years ago to work with at-risk youths, including young offenders. The aim is to give them training and work, and help them get their lives on track.
UTEC’s mattress recycling operations began in the early 2010s, and as well as dismantling and recycling the old mattresses, it also carries out kerbside pickups. It currently recycles mattresses and boxsprings from 15 municipalities. These are mostly on the North Shore but also including the big university city of Cambridge, just over the Charles River from Boston. It also has contracts with several large organisations such as hospitals and universities in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine.
‘This ban opens up a new industry in the state,’ UTEC CEO Gregg Croteau told the Lowell Sun. ‘There may be much-larger businesses from out-of-state that can scale up. And, honestly, without this bill, we could be out of business pretty quickly.’