While I work I sometimes listen to music on my headphones to help me concentrate. I can’t say I listen to every Pandora Ad – sometimes I blank on them, sometimes I listen. Today I heard an advertisement for Bye Bye Mattress. The ad tells of “the life and reincarnation of the American mattress!”
It was unusually gratifying for me listening to the advertisement extolling the benefits of a program we helped pioneer in Bridgeport. Mattress Recycling has gone mainstream! What a difference a couple years can make. The ad told folks about new products made from steel, wood, biomass and plastic products hidden within those old, unwanted mattresses.
Mattresses pose an enormous solid waste and blight problem for the inner cities and neighborhoods beyond. Transient populations, bigger families, and cheaper mattresses tend to compound a problem we all have – what to do with one of our bulkiest possessions when we are done with them?
Several years ago when we presented a plan to the Connecticut legislature on behalf of the State’s largest City, Bridgeport, it was a new idea with plenty of skeptics. Perseverance paid off and after a couple tries a bill was passed requiring a “mattress stewardship program” which would charge a recycling fee of $9 for each mattress. Two dollars would be a deposit, redeemable by the owner when brought to the recycling center.
Have you seen mattresses thrown under highway bridges or in industrial areas of Connecticut? No, you haven’t because hundreds of thousands of mattresses are now part of a virtuous resource cycle. They are being disassembled by people previously unemployed or those re-entering the workforce from incarceration. Mattress raw materials are being sold and re-manufactured into new products and the revenues from this enterprise create jobs. All while reducing our carbon footprint!
The carbon released in the exploration, extraction, refinement, shipping, and processing has been eliminated. Carbon and other pollutants are not being released by the previous way we handled mattresses – by burning them in a mass burn trash to energy plant Carbon footprints are being reduced, jobs created and new products sold. This is all done by not burning mattresses, by not leaving them to rot, unsightly in the open air to offend every sense imaginable.
Bill Finch is the Executive Director of the Discovery Museum & Planetarium in Bridgeport and a Climate Fellow at the Rockefeller Institute of Government. He previously served as the acting Director of the New York State Thruway Authority and Canal Corporation, was Mayor of Bridgeport for eight years, and served as co-chair for the U.S. Conference of Mayors Climate Protection Task Force.