Looking to get rid of an old mattress? There are now a growing number of more ethical ways to dispose of a mattress and without adding to landfill. Depending on the state of it, for example, you could donate it to charity, and there are more places willing to do this than ever.
The other option is to have it recycled at a dedicated recycling facility where they take the individual components and pass them on for use in other household objects such as pet beds and carpet padding.
Some of the best mattress brands will even remove your existing mattress for you while delivering your new one (some charge a fee for this, others don’t), though we would recommend asking them what they will do with the old one first. Let's now look at how to dispose of a mattress via donation and recycling, in both the US and the UK. And if you are in need of a new bed, take a look at our 4th of July mattress sales guide for the biggest discounts.
How to dispose of a mattress: The basics
Before you get rid of an old mattress, there are some things to consider first. If you are thinking about passing it on to charity for somebody else to sleep on, then it will need to be fit for that purpose. This means:
- The cover cannot be torn
- The filling (springs, foam, etc) must be contained and not poking out
- It must be free of damp, smells, stains, mold and bed bugs
- The surface needs to be even with no pronounced sagging
If none of the above apply, then your bed will not be suitable for donating to charity. But don’t be too crestfallen yet because up to 75% of its components can be recycled, meaning you may still be able to dispose of a mattress in a way that does not harm the planet and add to landfill.
Different recycling facilities have different rules about what materials they can take for recycling, so it’s worth checking first. Overall, recycling a mattress that can no longer be used is an effective way to responsibly dispose of it, with many of the components inside being useful to make items such as pet beds, car seats and carpet padding.
How to dispose of a mattress: Donation
If your mattress is in a decent condition with no sags, smells, stains, or springs sticking out, then you should be good to pass it on to a local charity or shelter for someone else to use.
Many charities will pick it up from you – simply go online and book a pickup slot at a time that’s convenient, and they will come straight to your home. Here are just some of the ways and places where you can donate in the US and the UK…
Donating a mattress in the US
One of the easiest ways to pass on your usable mattress is to give it away for free in your local area. Craigslist, Facebook or FreeCycle.org are all effective ways of doing this.
If you would prefer to donate it to a registered charity but don’t know where to start, the following resources make it straightforward. Simply enter your zip code or drop them a message to get the ball rolling:
It’s worth mentioning that not all charities – including The Salvation Army and Goodwill – can take used mattresses (or box springs), so always check with them beforehand.
Donating a mattress in the UK
This is an easy way to dispose of a mattress in the UK, especially via sites such as Gumtree, Facebook and Freecycle. There are also several excellent ways to directly pass on your mattress to bigger charities, and the following all accept mattresses that are in good condition and have safety tags intact. Try:
How to dispose of a mattress: Recycling
If your mattress is no longer fit for purpose or donation, then you should consider recycling it. There are two main ways to recycle one: first, you could break it down yourself and pull out the individual components for recycling (or upcycling or repurposing).
Secondly – and this is the most straightforward option – you can pass on the entire mattress to a recycling facility who will take it apart and pass on the components for use elsewhere in other household items.
Breaking it down yourself might be easier if your local recycling centre does not offer a pickup service. If you separate the components, then some parts can also be used for DIY craft projects, household mats or pet beds. Some people also use the springs to make bird-feeders, so there are multiple uses for the components inside.
If you do need to hire a pickup service, make sure you use a responsible one such as LoadUp in the US, or Zero Waste Group in the UK, and consider sharing the pickup with other people in your local area who might also need items removed.
If you’re looking to donate your entire mattress for recycling, here are some options and info for the US and UK…
Mattress recycling in the US
- You should be able to recycle in most US states, but some, such as California, Connecticut and Rhode Island, have best-practice guidelines for responsible recycling that you need to read first.
- To get all the info on what is available in your state, Bye Bye Mattress has a full and comprehensive listing of American mattress recyclers.
- For more options of who will recycle, also try Earth 911.
Mattress recycling in the UK
- If you live in England or Wales, visit GOV.UK to see if your local council will pick up your mattress. There is also information on other recycling centres and pickup options.
- If you live in Scotland, visit Zero Waste Scotland for more information on mattress recycling and pickups in your local area.
- For further recycling options in the UK, The Mattress Recycling People and Collect Your Old Bed have info on pickups and on how the components will be recycled.
How to dispose of a mattress: Final advice
Choosing a well-made sustainable mattress in the first place is the most effective way to ensure it won’t end up in landfill a few years down the line. Not only will it last longer compared to cheaper models, but, when it is finally time to dispose of the mattress, you can be sure that the sustainable and biodegradable materials – such as cotton or natural latex – won’t pollute the earth.
Even though eco-friendly mattresses cost more upfront, the price on the planet will be less. Look for models with lengthy warranties of more than 10 years, as a sign of quality, as well as organic brands who use natural non-toxic materials to build their beds. Many eco-conscious brands have sales throughout the year to lower the cost to you, and often donate to environmental charities when you place an order.
But ‘standard’ mattress manufacturers are also becoming increasingly focused on the environment and sustainable sleep too. In the UK, for example, Simba Sleep uses 100% recyclable materials in all its beds, with those returned to the brand either recycled, or refurbished and redistributed through its Ebay outlet. Read our Simba Hybrid Pro mattress review for our thoughts on one of the brand's most popular mattresses. In the US, Avocado Green is leading the way with more sustainable packaging by wrapping its organic mattresses in brown paper instead of tough plastic.
Remember to look after it too, so that it lasts you longer - using one of the best mattress protectors is a good first step, as is learning how to clean a mattress and why that matters. To give it an extra lease of life, consider teaming it with one of the best mattress toppers for adding extra firmness or comfort when it's older.
Ultimately, the more you spend on a good quality mattress, the longer it will last, saving you money in the long-term and having a much lesser impact on the planet when it is time to dispose of it.
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This article is part of TechRadar's Sleep Awareness Week 2022 celebration (running until Saturday 19 March), a week-long look at all things slumber. We'll be bringing you proven techniques and tips to help you sleep better, and have rounded-up all the top-rated tech to transform your sleep.
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Grace Franks is an experienced sleep and mattress writer who has written for our sister sites Tom's Guide and T3, among other brands. She's interested in organic and eco-friendly sleep products, and how good sleep can improve our general wellbeing. When not writing about mattresses, Grace loves reading, creative writing, and practicing yoga.