Goodwill Industries recycles 19,000 mattresses per year.
Hauling waste from Duluth to a landfill in Sarona, Wisc., 75 miles one way, was a logistical problem for the Western Lake Superior Sanitary District. Bulky trashed mattresses only made the problem worse.
So in 2002, Hank Fisher at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency brought together people he thought could help get the mattresses out of the trucks and out of the landfill. The working group was made up of representatives from various governmental agencies, the hospitality industry, mattress retailers, waste haulers and local prison administrators. Goodwill Industries was interested in taking on this new venture.
First, state and local funds were used to develop a business plan, establish mattress collection infrastructure at county disposal sites and get Goodwill the equipment they needed to deconstruct the mattresses. Then, Product Development Funds, along with other funding, engaged NRRI in finding markets for the components. The final piece that made the project successful was finding a local inventor to come up with a way to compress the steel springs.
Today, Goodwill Industries employs 5 workers recycling some 19,000 mattresses a year. The bundled steel springs bring in revenue of $350 per ton and some 160 tons of steel were melted down at a local foundry in 2010. The hope is that mattress recycling facilities will be developed across the country, employing people, eliminating a landfill problem, and creating a new business to manufacture the unique recycling equipment.