PICTURED: Mattress disposal options are available. Photo submitted
by David Goldstein
If you want to recycle a mattress in Ventura County, five locations, which can be found at byebyemattress.com, allow free dropoff. Curbside bulky item collection is also an option for residents of single-family homes who subscribe to garbage collection service and contact their hauler with a request. However, the most convenient option is retailer take back. The retailer delivering your new mattress or futon must offer to take back an old one within 30 days.
To fund recycling at the dropoff sites, and to make recycling more cost effective through other methods, local stores and online retailers all add to the consumer’s bill a state-mandated $10.50 fee on each mattress or box spring sold in California. The cost for the most convenient option, retailer take back, is primarily borne by the retailers.
Until a year ago, only retailers selling from local brick-and-mortar stores were required to offer to collect your old mattress for free when delivering a new one. Online retailers, delivering mattresses via UPS, FedEx or another common carrier, were not required to offer this service until January 2021.
January 2021, however, came during a time of pandemic. Therefore, when the mandate began applying to online mattress retailers, some had an escape clause. State regulations allow retailers, or their representatives, to reject mattresses if they determine the mattress is “contaminated or poses a risk to personnel, new products, or equipment.” Citing a risk of COVID transmission, some postponed compliance with this mandate.
I have not heard recent reports of retailers using this loophole to avoid an expensive obligation, but a newer problem seems harder to solve without consumer input. The online process for requesting retailer take back sometimes requires a great deal of persistence and advance knowledge of the retailer’s obligation.
For example, at least one online retailer, which advertises its “green” credentials, requires consumers requesting collection of their old mattress to notice a “call to action” on their order receipt; go to the referenced website and click “request service”; link to an item in the company’s Help Center; and then provide information, including “digital pictures” to “clearly demonstrate that the used mattress is in suitable condition for pickup.”
As the former recycling coordinator of a large city, Kreigh Hampel knew retailers had an obligation to collect his used mattress, so he and his wife persisted in completing the process for ordering collection. Afterward, he emailed me, noting, “I can’t emphasize enough how vague and buried their recycling information is on their website . . . hidden in a jungle of green boasting.”
Know your recycling rights. To ensure your mattress is recycled in the most convenient way, you may have to persist in pursuing the retailer’s take-back obligation. If you find barriers, please contact me. I am advising the Mattress Recycling Council (mattressrecyclingcouncil.org/), a nonprofit organization formed by the mattress industry and designated by the California Department of Resources Recovery and Recycling to administer the recycling funds generated by the $10.50 fee. The council is interested to know if many others are experiencing problems with the opacity of retailer take-back processes.
Also, if you run a business in the “sleep products” industry or the recycling industry and want to make mattress recycling easier in Ventura County, please consider becoming an additional site for free dropoff. The Mattress Recycling Council will help fund your labor and equipment costs. Ventura County has two dropoff sites in Oxnard, one in Ventura, one in Camarillo and one in Simi Valley. Sites are especially needed in the Santa Clara River Valley and the Ojai Valley.
David Goldstein, an Environmental Resource Analyst with the Ventura County Public Works Agency, may be reached at 805-658-4312 or firstname.lastname@example.org . Goldstein’s comments are not made in his role as a member of the California Mattress Recycling Advisory Committee nor on behalf of the committee.