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EPR for mattresses

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Most mattresses today are discarded after an average of ten years of utilization. Available figures on discarded matrasses worldwide are stunning. In the Netherlands, more than one million used mattresses are discarded every year, making it the current largest waste stream within the household waste. More than seven millions of mattresses are disposed of across the UK every year, whereas around 600.000 mattresses are disposed of in Scotland. In the US more than 50.000 mattresses are discarded every day. In the EU, according to European Bedding Industry Association, up to 30 million mattresses annually reach their end of life and it is estimated that 60% end up in landfill and 40% are incinerated. However, it is reported that almost 85% of their mass can be recycled through proper disassembly. Despite the high potential, recycling rate is very low. Matrasses are bulky and flexible, what makes them very difficult to handle and transport. Instead of being reused or recycled, they are usually collected with furniture and other various bulky items and processed for incineration with energy recovery or landfilled. In addition, due to their shape and size, discarded mattresses can cause damage to collection vehicles and block the hoppers in waste-to-energy plants. In the worst case scenario, they are illegally dumped in the environment resulting with increased costs for local governments. If landfilled, mattresses can cover voids in waste piles allowing explosive methane gas to accumulate.

Designing and implementing an Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) scheme emerges as one possible solution to improving the circularity of mattresses. The EPR schemes would require mattress producers to set up and operate recycling programs that make it easy for consumers to recycle old mattresses, and would relieve local governments from the burden of managing this type of bulky waste. Furthermore, the EPR schemes would also provide a continuous flow of material, encouraging long-term investments in local refurbishing, recycling and remanufacturing facilities, creating local jobs and economic value.

In order to discuss these issues and more, the EPR Club organized a lunch debate entitled “EPR for mattresses”. The event, in the form of webinar, was held on 18th of May 2021. Gathering representatives of stakeholders from each segment in the value chain to share their positions, experiences and questions, the debate provided an opportunity for interactive discussion on the role of the EPR in improving the whole life cycle management of mattresses.  




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