If you have an 8- or 10-year-old mattress on your hands, it might be time to say goodbye. But knowing how to properly dispose of it may be difficult. Though most of us would rather not add to the nearly 50,000 mattresses that pile up in landfills every day, the alternatives may be trickier than they appear.
Recycling or donating mattresses seems like a simple enough endeavor, but the task can actually be quite challenging. Some charities aren’t allowed to accept mattresses due to concerns over bed bugs or health department regulations, certain recycling programs have become less profitable and therefore less available, and many states don’t have recycling programs at all.
Plus, since foam fluctuates wildly in its profitability, some of the popular online mattress brands offering 100-plus-night trial periods don’t always stick to their promise of recycling or donating returned mattresses — a claim that potential customers may view as a good reason for purchasing.
However, you do have options when it’s time to get rid of your old mattress. Depending on the condition of the mattress and where you live, you may be able to donate it, recycle it or even have it picked up. Here’s what we recommend.
Free mattress recycling programs
Some states have free mattress recycling programs available. For example, in California, Connecticut and Rhode Island, the Mattress Recycling Council runs a mattress recycling program called ByeByeMattress, and statewide laws allow households to drop off old mattresses and box springs at collection sites free of charge (fees are paid at time of sale).
You can also use ByeByeMattress or other search engines like Earth911 to locate a mattress recycling spot.This interactive mapreveals over 100 mattress recycling centers nationwide.
Some cities offer full-service recycling centers where you can drop off almost anything. If you have more than just a mattress to drop off, or the mattress is too large for you to bring in, you may be able to arrange for pickup from your home — some city and county governments will pick up bulky items (like mattresses) curbside upon request, although these may or may not be part of a recycling program.
City recycling programs may charge a fee for dropping off mattresses or box springs. You may or may not need to make an appointment to drop off your mattress.
Some mattress brands will pick up
Having a new mattress delivered? In states like California, your retailer is required to take your old mattress back when they deliver a new one to you, as long as it’s in acceptable condition. Be sure to read the fine print when purchasing your mattress so you know what kind of delivery and old mattress removal arrangements you’re paying for.
Local charities and shelters
Charities and organizations may be interested in gently used mattresses in good condition. A few options to consider include:
You can also check your area for a giveaway group, like the Freecycle Network. Not finding any in your town? There’s likely something similar even if it goes by a different name (one of our town’s local networks is called “Freely Offered and Freely Given,” for example), so try a combination of different search terms before you give up. You can also list your mattress on your city’s Craigslist under the free stuff category, in local Buy Nothing groups, on NextDoor or on the free stuff page on Facebook Marketplace.
Check with local businesses to see if they might be interested in a gently used mattress. It couldn’t hurt to call area residential facilities, hotels, hostels, hospitals, universities or any other types of establishments that invite or allow people to stay overnight.
Take the mattress apart yourself and recycle
If you aren’t able to find a recycling or donation site for your old mattress, there’s always a chance you can take it apart and recycle the components yourself. For example, you could take out the metal springs or coils in the mattress and take them in for scrap recycling (you may even be paid a small fee for it), or you could take the foam in to be shredded in order to make new memory foam or other products. The wooden frame as well as any natural or synthetic fabrics used may also be recyclable.
Before you start hacking up your mattress, it’s probably a good idea to consult a DIY site to get full details on how to disassemble your mattress. It’s no easy task, and the pros can show you how to streamline the process.
Crafting and upcycling
If you’re creative or thrifty, upcycling or repurposing an old mattress might be a great option. If you can’t think of anything to make with yours, take a browse through Pinterest, where you’re bound to get inspired by someone’s crafty upcycle ideas!
A few fun upcycling ideas:
- Garden or outdoor decor (may be particularly useful for metal coils or springs).
- Wine racks or bottle holders.
- Pet beds.
- Bookshelf or other shelving.
- Kitchen racks.
- Bird feeders.
- Christmas or holiday ornaments/decor.
- Repurposed foam or fabrics, e.g., shredded for insulation.
As a last resort, you can trash it
Finally, if there’s nothing else left to try, you can probably throw the old mattress out with the rest of the trash, or have it hauled away. This may or may not require a fee and/or advance arrangements. Check local, state or city ordinances for any specific rules for mattress disposal in your area. If not done properly, you may end up getting handed a ticket or fine, so be sure to do your research before leaving your mattress on the curb.
Some places require you to wrap your mattress tightly in plastic, while others ask that you acquire a specially crafted mattress bag to use. There are also likely to be certain days when you can put large items curbside for trash pickup.
Private waste removal services may also be able to help you. You’ll need to contact each one to get their rates, which can vary significantly.