Need to know
- It’s important to try and get your mattress recycled instead of dumping it in landfill
- Depending on where you live, there are a variety of businesses and services who can help
- Pillows can be difficult to dispose of sustainably, but you may be able to 'upcycle' them for around the home
If you're no longer getting the best night's sleep on your old mattress or your pillow is ready for retirement, finding replacements is one part of the problem, but how do you go about disposing of the old ones when you no longer need them?
Do you stuff your pillow in the bin? Should your old mattress go straight to the tip?
We take a look at what to do when replacing your old mattresses and pillows and tell you why you should consider the planet when deciding how to dispose of them.
When to get a new mattress
CHOICE mattress expert Peter Zaluzny says in most cases, your mattresses should last 8–10 years and there are particular warnings to let you know when it's time to stop sleeping on it.
"The usual tell-tale signs are things like you're waking up in constant discomfort because it's started to sag, or it smells and you can't get rid of the smell – don't try and put up with it," he says.
When it comes to pillows, some manufacturers say they should be replaced every two years.
But CHOICE has found this depends on the material, with some polyester pillows becoming too lumpy after six months and others made of memory foam continuing to give support for up to 10 years.
Therefore, rather than being guided by a blanket rule, consider getting a new pillow if you are not getting enough comfort from your current one and are waking up with headaches or neck pain.
You should also start looking for somewhere new to rest your head if there is noticeable mould on your pillow, as this can be a health risk, especially if you have allergies.
How to get rid of your old mattress
How you can dispose of your old mattress will depend on where you live. While there are often more options for those residing in metropolitan areas, if you live in a regional or remote area you might find your options are limited and more costly.
In many places, your only option might be to take your mattress straight to the tip, which will often incur a fee. Similarly, a commercial rubbish removal service will also cost you, though it will save you a trip to the tip.
One free option might be to wait for your local council's next kerbside hard rubbish cleanup. Some councils also offer a hard rubbish pickup service by request (available as frequently as once a week in some areas) which can take your mattress, while others do dedicated mattress collections.
But not all of these options are going to do good by the environment, and there are ways to guarantee your mattress gets a more sustainable send-off, instead of simply being left in landfill.
Operating across parts of NSW, Victoria, WA and the ACT, Soft Landing is a leading mattress recycler, that may be able to take your mattress off your hands.
Soft Landing aims to recycle up to 75% of each mattress it receives, while providing jobs to those facing barriers to employment in the process
As general manager Chris Richards explains, the social enterprise receives mattresses through its pickup and drop-off service, but also takes care of mattresses from other sources.
"We collect and recycle; we work with councils, directly with the public, with manufacturers and retail stores, and with traditional waste management companies," he says.
Not-for-profit recycler Soft Landing breaks down mattresses by hand, finding second uses for the main components. Image credit: Soft Landing.
Soft Landing aims to recycle up to 75% of each mattress it receives, while providing jobs to those facing barriers to employment in the process.
They charge around $55 to $77 to collect one mattress and then $40 for each additional one.
Check their website to see if they operate in your area or if your council is one of the 65 across Australia whose kerbside collection mattresses are passed on to the not-for-profit.
There are also bed retailers who will act as a go-between and pass on your old mattress to Soft Landing when you shop with them.
Head to Recycle My Mattress to find stores near you which can arrange for your old mattress to be recycled with Soft Landing when you buy your new mattress from them.
If these options aren't available to you, check out Planet Ark's mattress directory to find alternative recycling and reuse services in your area.
It may also be worth checking with your local mattress shop. On its website, Snooze invites those not serviced by council pickups or Soft Landing to contact them, saying some of their stores may be able to arrange removal.
Why recycle your old mattress?
So why should you go to the effort of getting your mattress to a recycler who is going to save it from landfill?
According to Planet Ark, as many as 1.8 million mattresses end up in general waste in Australia each year, where each one takes up almost 0.75 cubic metres of valuable space and may spend over 100 years breaking down in landfill.
As many as 1.8 million mattresses end up in general waste in Australia each year ... and may spend over 100 years breaking down in landfill
CHOICE expert Peter Zaluzny says the design of mattresses also makes them unwieldy additions to the general waste at your local tip.
"They're big sponges and in landfill they get heavy, which makes them difficult to move. It's also best to avoid putting any sort of manufactured stuff in landfill, because when it gets rained on, the fillings inside can leak out with the water runoff."
This is especially troubling when you consider that many of the main components inside a mattress have recycling potential, as Soft Landings' Chris Richards explains.
"By sending [your mattress] to landfill, you straight away lose all of the value in the mattress through the recoverable components: polyurethane foam and steel springs," says Richards.
On any given day, Soft Landing has as many as 30 trucks bringing in up to a thousand mattresses to its recycling facilities across Australia
On any given day, Soft Landing has as many as 30 trucks bringing in up to a thousand mattresses to its recycling facilities across Australia, where they are stripped down to their reusable parts.
"We manually deconstruct them by hand, pull the outer layers off, recover the usable foam and the steel spring sets," Richards says.
The bales of foam are then sold to carpet producers who use it as underlay material, while the metal springs often end up being moulded into building materials by steel manufacturers.
Experts say the design of mattresses makes them difficult to store in landfill. Image credit: Soft Landing.
How to dispose of old pillows
Unfortunately, things get a bit more complicated when it comes to finding a sustainable way to shift your old pillows.
Planet Ark says they can't be recycled through your household recycling bin and should go in general waste.
But if your pillow is still in good condition, you may be able to 'upcycle' it at home by repurposing it for a pet or using the filling to top-up other cushions.
Can I donate my old mattress or pillow?
Major charities such as St Vincent de Paul and The Salvation Army don't invite donations of old pillows, so it's best not to try and drop these off at your local op shop.
However, Salvos and Vinnies do say that they can accept donated mattresses, as long as they are not stained.
Even if your mattress is stain-free, it's still a good idea to call ahead to the charity shop you intend to take it to, as not all will be able to accept these larger items.
While you are on the phone, you can also ask if the organisation offers a pick-up service. This is available from some St Vincent de Paul and Salvation Army stores on request.