Samuel Bigot/Andia

Recycling old mattresses - industry of the future!

Posted on 26 January 2016.

The recycling potential of a mattress is extraordinary! Up to 90% of its components (metal, foam, latex, textile, etc.) can be recycled. A reservoir of materials which also represent a tremendous economic opportunity – large enough to make it possible to develop an industrial sector that will create jobs. In France, Eco-mobilier organizes the collection and recycling of used furniture - including bedding. By the end of 2013, the environmental nonprofit set up by the furniture industry and approved by France’s Ministry of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy, launched a call for projects to build and operate bed recycling plants in four regions of France - the west, the south west, the north and the east. The aim? To recycle 100,000 metric tonnes of mattresses annually by 2018.

In western France, the partnership between Veolia and Envie 2E was selected, with the roles divided on the basis of their particular skills. Veolia brings its industrial and financial commitment and its expertise in the field of recycling and recovering raw materials. And Envie 2E, a social enterprise, brings its know-how of back-to-work programs, its knowledge of disassembling mattresses and its roots in the area around Rennes.

Opened in September 2015 north of Rennes, the mattress dismantling unit designed by Veolia and Envie 2E is able to process 4,000 mattresses per month, or about 1000 metric tonnes per year. Every day, hundreds of mattresses arrive from all over western France for recycling thanks to an innovative solution. They are first chemically disinfected in a special room - foam mattresses are then cut up and spring mattress are disassembled by hand. The recovered materials are then ready to begin a new life in the automotive, furniture, construction industries as heat and sound insulation or for lining doors – they’re sometimes even used to make new mattresses!

A technical but also social pilot project (Envie 2E has already created 6 jobs and intends creating 14 in total by the end of 2018), Rennes’ mattress dismantling unit is a good example of the circular economy. Through this initiative, Veolia consolidates its position as a benchmark producer of recycled raw materials for the furniture industry. The aim of the unit is to eventually process 400,000 tons of furniture and actively support Eco-mobilier in its target to recover 80% of old furniture by 2017.