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The Netherlands is a global leader in mattress recycling

About 1.6 to 1.8 million mattresses are discarded in the Netherlands every year. A stack of about a thousand Eiffel towers on top of each other. Recycling of this has grown enormously in the past two years. So reports NOS. The Amsterdam Economic Board has been working on making mattresses circular since 2016. After all, mattresses are the largest flow of household residual waste.

“The Netherlands is at the forefront of mattress recycling,” says Jan Nieuwenhuis, chairman of the consultative body in which government and industry consult on the recycling of mattresses. “The capacity has expanded enormously in recent years.”

Two years ago, two-thirds of all those mattresses ended up in incinerators, resulting in enormous CO2 emissions. Only a third was recycled into, for example, judo mats, insulation material and carpet underlay.

That has changed rapidly. The two mattress recycling companies in the Netherlands, Retourmatras and Matras Recycling Europe (MRE), say they will recycle 900,000 and 500,000 mattresses respectively this year. This means that about three quarters of all discarded mattresses are recycled.

This makes the Netherlands a global leader in mattress recycling, he says Jacqueline Cramer , circular economy director at the Board. A few years ago she took the initiative to sit down with the mattress manufacturers to discuss the recycling of their products. read here Jacqueline Cramer’s book about, among other things, the mattresses case study.

And that is important. Because not only are the CO2 emissions enormous when the mattresses are burned. The burn itself is also a problem. Mattresses burn so well that they can damage the incinerators. In addition, stored wet mattresses can spontaneously catch fire, because the materials start to ‘scald’.

The five largest producers, IKEA, Beter Bed, Auping, Swiss Sense and Hilding Anders, eventually took the initiative for a so-called ‘voluntary producer responsibility’.

It means that the producers will have to pay for the costs of the recycling, about 10 euros per mattress. “It is the principle of: the polluter pays”, says Nieuwenhuis. Nowadays it is mainly municipalities who pay for it. “So it will soon be the responsibility of the person who markets the mattress.” Incidentally, he will pass on the costs to the consumer.

Goal already achieved

The sector’s target is that by 2028 three quarters of all discarded mattresses will be recycled. That goal has already been achieved, even before producer responsibility starts. According to Nieuwenhuis, this is because the recyclers have expanded their capacity enormously in anticipation of this. “As a result, the mattress recyclers saw that there would be more market coming.”

Return mattress was able to attract large parties from the sector as wealthy co-investors. For a year and a half IKEA, the largest mattress seller in the Netherlands, and waste processor Renewi have each been a third owner besides founder Nanne Fioole. “With their arrival, the wings have opened to be able to fly further,” said Fioole.

In a minute and a half

At the end of last year, the company opened its third factory where mattresses are dismantled in less than a minute and a half, with two more to follow this year. There is enormous interest from abroad, says director Fioole. “There is already interest from twenty countries to adopt our concept.”

Competitor MRE is also working hard on the way. Last year the capacity already grew by 40 percent, according to Ruud Kortink. This year it is expected to double again to about one million.

Thrown away

At the moment there is mainly so-called ‘low-value’ recycling in the form of, among other things, insulation material. That must eventually change, says Nieuwenhuis. “All major manufacturers are now working on designing mattresses differently. Mattresses must be easier to take apart. The parts no longer need to be glued and a different type of foam must be used. Then, for example, a different mattress can be used. to be made.”

Mattress and bed manufacturer Auping from Deventer has already launched such a mattress that can be fully recycled into a new one. This makes the company a forerunner in the sector.

According to Nieuwenhuis, it is not only a social responsibility of mattress manufacturers to make an effort to recycle. “It is also increasingly becoming a marketing tool. Consumers are becoming increasingly sensitive to how sustainable products are.”

See here also the movie on nos.nl about mattress recycling.

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