A pile of mattresses at a reuse and recycling centre
Published date: 3 October 2023

To space and back – twice: innovative NLWA scheme saves 248 miles of mattresses

North London Waste Authority (NLWA) announced a major milestone this week as its innovative recycling scheme saved its 200,000th mattress from going to waste. Laid end-to-end, the rescued mattresses would stretch for 248 miles – enough to travel to the edge of space and back again, twice! 

“Ever since we first kicked off the mattress recycling scheme in 2021, we’ve seen great take-up from north London residents,” said NLWA Chair, Councillor Clyde Loakes. “North Londoners care about looking after their environment, so they appreciate the opportunity to save these mattresses from being thrown away or fly-tipped.” 

In the UK 7 million mattresses are thrown away every year, making it a major waste stream and risk to the environment. A double mattress has a carbon footprint of 79kg, and most end up being thrown away within seven years.   

Fortunately, recycling schemes like NLWA’s can make a huge difference in cutting down that waste and reducing the environmental impact. The 200,000 mattresses recycled through the NLWA scheme add up to a shocking total of more than 4,600 tonnes – that’s the weight of 400 London buses, now diverted from disposal.  

The scheme sees mattresses sent to a recycling facility in London where they are deconstructed into their component materials. With up to 17 different materials making up a single mattress, each can be used for different purposes; for example, inner springs are melted down and remade into new metal products, while synthetic layers such as foam are used to make items like carpet underlay. Around 90% of the mattress materials will get recycled, with any remaining non-recyclable material going to energy from waste.  

“Many Brits might not realise how much can be recycled from a mattress, but the growth of our scheme shows we’re raising that awareness,” said Councillor Loakes. “We encourage residents to bring their old mattresses to our reuse and recycling centres, check for council pick-up services, or ask the manufacturer if they have responsible disposal schemes.”