New rule requiring mattresses and box springs to be recycled raises some concerns

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NORTHAMPTON — Valley Recycling has seen an influx of mattresses and box springs that people are throwing away over the past month.

The Northampton recycling center is only open for four hours on Saturday but managed to accommodate 100 mattresses from locals. By Monday afternoon, the company had collected 100 more.

“It was crazy,” said Rich Pitts, president and owner of Valley Recycling.

The frenzy described by Pitts was in response to people’s last-ditch efforts to get rid of old mattresses before state waste disposal ban regulations took effect and mattresses were no longer allowed in bathrooms. garbage cans or combustion installations.

The state Department of Environmental Protection has expanded its waste disposal prohibition regulations to include mattresses as well as textiles on the list of materials prohibited from disposal or transport for disposal. These regulations come into force on Tuesday, November 1.

And while increasing the number of mattresses collected could be good for business, Pitts worries that new state requirements — and the subsequent imposed fees that now come with recycling them — could lead to people burning mattresses or throw them out of their vehicles on every secondary road. in the state.

Valley Recycling, which has a number of junk hauler customers like 1-800-GOT-JUNK, has typically charged between $15 and $25 to dispose of the mattresses. With the new regulations, prices have increased to $50 for clean and dry single, double and queen mattresses, and $65 for dirty, stained and soiled mattresses, as well as king-size mattresses.

According to Pitts, less than 20% of the mattresses he takes away are considered “clean.”

“Regulations say the state doesn’t want wet, moldy, stained, or bedbug-infested mattresses, but sometimes it’s hard to make that call. What if we bring our container to be recycled and they say the mattresses are not clean? What do I do with it now? he said. “Honestly, I’m worried if the recyclers can handle the sheer volume of mattresses that will be coming in.”

Reduce waste disposal

The impetus behind the new regulations is DEP’s 2030 Solid Waste Master Plan. Under the plan, the state aims to reduce waste disposal in Massachusetts by 30% over the next 10 years – from 5.7 million tons in 2018 to 4 million tons by 2030. By 2050, the state aims to achieve a 90% reduction in disposal to 570,000 tons.

Massachusetts residents and businesses dispose of about 230,000 tons of usable clothing, footwear, linens and other textile products each year, according to the DEP.

According to the state agency’s estimate, about 95% of this material could be reused or recycled rather than thrown away, and since more than 75% of the mattress components are recyclable, the ban encourages people to to recycle.

“Recycling mattresses and box springs reduces the need for additional landfill and incineration capacity, captures valuable materials for reuse and supports a growing business sector here in the Commonwealth,” said the Commissioner. of the DEP, Martin Suuberg, in a press release.

Zero Waste Massachusetts, a coalition of like-minded advocates pushing to reduce and eventually phase out waste disposal, described the state’s plan as a positive step forward.

“Burning or burying things that can be recycled or composted is like throwing away our future,” said Janet Domenitz, director of the student-run and funded organization Massachusetts Student Public Interest Research Group (MassPIRG), in a communicated. “Incinerators and landfills pollute our air and water, emit greenhouse gas emissions and harm our communities. There’s no “fix” in throwing things away, and we’re glad DEP is moving towards less disposal.

Municipal action

To soften the landing of the new regulations, several municipalities have put recycling programs and initiatives in place ahead of the Nov. 1 start date.

This summer, the Franklin County Solid Waste Management District established five regional mattress collection sites across the county after securing five $10,000 state grants to pay for storage facilities at mattress transfer stations. Colrain, Bernardston, Deerfield, Montague and Wendell.

According to Jan Ameen, executive director of the Franklin County Solid Waste Management District, the program is only for clean, dry mattresses and fabric-covered box springs, including foam mattresses and cribs.

The district launched its new recycling program on October 24.

Regardless of size, all regional mattress recycling sites now charge $35 per mattress or box spring.

If it’s dry and clean, the mattress will go in the new container, but if an attendant determines it’s dirty, it will go in the bulky bin. The price remains the same.

In Montague, attendant Dave Withers said he typically sees about 20 mattresses entering the transfer station per week, but has seen an increase of about 30% since the district announced the ban and increased price.

“Honestly, maybe one in 100 is so disgusting you don’t have to think twice. And I’d say in my three years here I’ve probably seen about 1,000 mattresses arrive “, he said. “I’m not that worried.”

Withers said the increased fees were more concerning. Prior to the start of the program, Montague’s fee to retrieve a mattress was $25.

“I hate to see prices go up because right now people are dealing with high prices for gas, fuel oil and everything else. So a $10 jump is a lot for people, and I hate to see that,” he said.

“Ahead of the Curve”

Southampton Freeway Superintendent and Transfer Station Manager Randall Kemp said the town was able to secure a 20ft storage container for recycling mattresses thanks to a state grant in July 2018.

“Not to honk, but tot, toot. We’re way ahead of the curve here,” Kemp said.

However, instead of the recycling program being optional, it is now mandatory.

The city only allows members to use its transfer station — $75 for a standard pass and $50 for seniors.

Clean, dry mattresses and box springs cost $20 to recycle. Those that attendants deem dirty are thrown in the bulky waste and incur a $30 fee.

When it comes to textiles, Withers and Kemp agreed that people seem to have no problem keeping clothes out of the trash. The two said, however, that many people are not as familiar with the extent of the textiles collected.

Under state regulations, usable textiles including clothing, footwear, belts, hats, purses, rugs, curtains, towels, linens, and other linens. Ninety-five percent of this material can be reused as clothing or made into rags or recycled into new fiber products, Kemp said.

“The material doesn’t have to be perfect – it can be worn, torn and stained, all while staying out of the trash,” he said.

Equipment contaminated with bodily fluids, oil, mold or mildew will not be accepted.

For the Franklin County Solid Waste Management District, every transfer station in the county except Bernardston has Salvation Army bins to collect textiles. Bernardston uses CMRK in Northborough for textile recycling.

In Southampton, Kemp has also been proactive in motivating residents to divert clothing and fabrics from the waste stream and landfills. In fact, he even challenged them online to reduce and recycle items by donating to the DARE bins at the city transfer station on Moose Brook Road.

From 2019 to 2021, residents donated 21,975 pounds of textiles. According to his records through September this year, Kemp said residents had already diverted 10,610 pounds of textiles from the waste stream.

“I continue to urge people when they receive new items like a new bed or a new refrigerator to ask about the company’s disposal options. It’s cheaper than what we can do and I encourage them to consider those options,” he said.

While Kemp and Withers remain confident with the programs in place, Pitts said the impact of the new regulations remains to be seen.

“Time will tell, but I don’t see it getting better anytime soon,” Pitts said.

Emily Thurlow can be contacted at [email protected]

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