Trash Talk 

How to Dispose of a Mattress

How to Dispose of a Mattress

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“Sleep is that golden chain that ties health and our bodies together.” - Thomas Dekker.

A good night’s sleep is essential to good physical and mental wellbeing. Good restful sleep keeps your heart healthy, reduces stress and inflammation, improves your mood and memory, reduces depression, and improves cognitive function. One of the main influencers on our sleep quality is our mattress. Dr. Vivek Cherian, a Baltimore physician, explains,

“Given that you spend approximately a third of your lifespan sleeping, the surface upon which you sleep can absolutely affect your physical health.”

While mattresses last many years, every mattress eventually needs to be replaced. According to the Sleep Foundation, most mattresses will last between seven and 10 years. Of course, this depends on several factors, including the type and quality of the mattress, and the weight and sleeping styles of its users. There is no hard and fast rule for when you need to get rid of your mattress (except if you have bed bugs, of course.) These signs help you know when it’s time:

  • You are uncomfortable sleeping.
  • Your mattress has a permanent indentation, sagging, worn edges, or impression in it.
  • Your mattress feels too hard or too soft.
  • You sleep better at a hotel or family member’s home.
  • There are lumps in your mattress.
  • Your allergies or asthma is worse after sleeping.
  • Your life circumstances change due to pregnancy, injury, or weight loss/gain.
  • Your mattress has bed bugs
  • Your sleeping partner situation has changed.
  • Your mattress is more than 10 years old.
  • If you have one or more of these situations, it may be time for a new mattress. Once you are ready to buy a new mattress, you’ll need to figure out how to dispose of your old mattress.

What Happens to Old Mattresses?

Today, 45% of mattresses are bought online and do not include mattress disposal. Not all in-person retail sales will necessarily offer mattress removal either. Some mattress delivery services will take away your old mattress, but if they don’t, you’ll have to find an alternative waste disposal service.

About 36 million mattresses are purchased in the United States each year, and over 20 million old mattresses are thrown away in landfills. That is a significant amount of waste in our community landfills and represents a large impact on our local environment. Teresa Nees of Mesa County Solid Waste in Colorado, explains,

 “Those mattresses are made so they don’t break down well. They also don’t break down in our landfill. They don’t squish very well, they take up a lot of air space, and those wires can get tanged up in our equipment.”

There are several alternative ways to dispose of your mattress that won’t take up this type of space in your local landfill.

How to Get Rid of Your Old Mattress

Drop Off at a Recycling Center

Ryan Drobel, a waste disposal specialist in Chicago, says,

“The thing I’m most surprised by is just how much nobody knows what to do with their mattresses. It seems like the majority of people are not aware that there are so many reusable materials in them.”

Recycling a mattress and box spring is a great alternative to dumping it in a landfill. According to the Mattress Recycling Council, more than 75% of a mattress can be removed and recycled, including the memory foam padding, fabric coverings, steel springs, and wooden frames. Find out if your local recycling center accepts mattress donations.

“It gets deconstructed into its various components, and those various components get bailed together and sent to recycling plants to get turned into new products,” explains Daniel McGowan of the Mattress Recycling Council.

Some recycling centers refurbish used mattresses and then sell them at a discount over a new mattress.

Sell Your Used Mattress

Sometimes, you may want to get rid of a mattress that still has some life it. This often occurs during remodeling, or you may have a mattress in good shape from a rarely used guest bedroom. This also can happen if you bought a new mattress, but find after a few months that it doesn’t suit you. Bill Fish, managing editor of SleepFoundation.org, explains, “If you have a relatively new mattress, but might not like the feel of memory foam, or don’t feel the mattress is right for your body type and sleep preferences, then it could be a good time to sell.”

In these cases, you may want to sell the mattress. You might be surprised at how many people are in the market for a deal on a good, cheap mattress. How much should you sell your mattress for? If it’s in good condition, you can expect around 25% of the retail price. You can list your mattress on sites like Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, OfferUp, or NextDoor. Some states require a used mattress to be cleaned before selling, so make sure you’ve complied with all regulations on used mattress sales. Offering to deliver your mattress might make for a quick sale.

Donate or Give Away Your Used Mattress

Many donation organizations and collection sites do not accept mattress or box spring donations due to hygiene issues such as the potential for bed bugs, so call to check before you load up yours for donation. There are some community organizations that accept mattresses, especially those serving homeless shelters. Claire Jarvis, the communication director of the Houston Furniture Bank, explains,

“It’s keeping mattresses out of the landfills, and it’s making sure that families in need have the mattresses they need.” These organizations typically refurbish old mattresses, sometimes replacing fabric coverings and foam interiors, and then give or sell them cheaply to families in need.

You can also post your mattress as a free offering on community selling sites such as NextDoor or Facebook Marketplace. Include pictures and be honest about any flaws or damage. If it is still in decent condition, you may find someone to pick it up. To protect it, put it in a plastic mattress bag first.

an infographic explaining how to dispose of a mattress
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Break Your Old Mattress Down

Mattresses fill more than 100 million cubic feet of landfill space every year. If you want to dispose of your mattress and box spring in your trash or in a landfill, consider breaking them down first to reduce the amount of space it will take up. Cutting it down may be your only option if you are using a rental dumpster or want to try to dispose of a mattress in your regular trash.

Not all dumpster companies allow mattress disposal, so check before tossing your mattress. You can easily break down a mattress and box spring using some simple tools and elbow grease. Some mattress components such as the metal springs, may be recycled, with the remaining parts like the mattress foam can be disposed of in your trash.

You can also use certain parts for DIY projects. Save some of the wooden slats from box springs for lawn mulch, or shred the polyurethane foam for carpet padding or pet bedding.

Use a Bulk Waste and Junk Hauler for Mattress Removal

A trash and junk removal service may take a mattress and box spring for disposal. There is usually a small fee to discard your mattress in this way. If you have other trash or junk to get rid of, it may be cost-effective to include your mattress in the one-time pickup fee of other waste. When scheduling a junk pickup, be sure to let the hauler know that you will be discarding a mattress, as some may not accept it for disposal.

Plan for Scheduled Municipal Large Waste Pickups

Many municipalities offer bulk trash collection a few times a year or at each season of the year. This is an opportunity for homeowners to discard items that are not allowed in regular trash pickups. Examples of these types of items include large appliances, electronic waste, and mattresses.

Before placing your used mattress out for collection on one of these scheduled days, check to make sure that mattresses are allowed. Since many community collections span a week or more, with the possibility of needing to leave your trash out for several days before pickup, be sure to secure your mattress to prevent it from being carried away by the wind into the street or a neighbor’s yard.

Final Thoughts on Mattress Disposal

Old used mattresses are the most commonly illegally dumped items on roadsides and in vacant lots. Dumping of mattresses results when the cost of disposal is high and there are not good community recycling options. Illegally dumped mattresses are not only unsightly, but are costly for a property owner or the city to remove. They also can create health, safety, and economic problems.

Jack Froese, chair of Metro Vancouver’s Zero Waste Committee explains,

“Abandoned waste is expensive for taxpayers, time consuming for municipalities to clean up, leads to more waste, and can be harmful to people’s health and the environment.”

By responsibly disposing of your mattress, you can combat the problems of illegal dumping and help protect our environment. You can support local recycling efforts by using a community recycling center or donating your old mattress to a refurbishing organization. However you choose to dispose of your old mattress, take care to follow all local regulations when discarding, selling, or donating your old mattress. Since discarded mattresses can have a significant impact, doing your part to dispose of your mattress responsibility will have a positive effect on your community.

About Monica Mayhak

I am an expert content writer with a depth of experience in the waste management and dumpster industry, with over 25 years of experience writing about construction, home improvement, property management, and education topics. As lead research writer for Discount Dumpster, I have expanded my knowledge and understanding of waste management, construction, and environmental issues over the past several years.

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