Home > News > Innovations for recycling used mattresses : Ecomaison sets the pace...

Innovations for recycling used mattresses : Ecomaison sets the pace

Reading time 5 min

Recycling used mattresses

An menu will be automatically build here, from the h2 in the main column

Innovations for recycling used mattresses : Ecomaison sets the pace

In over twelve years, the way used mattresses are treated has been reversed. Whereas almost 100% of them were landfilled in 2012, this is now the case for only a few percent. A change made possible by progress at all levels of the chain. Here's an update on a constantly evolving sector.

Collection: the start of a new life

66,000 tonnes of mattresses were collected in 2022, representing 3.5 million mattresses: a considerable source of material! Working in close collaboration with local authorities, we had to devise an efficient take-back network to ensure that used mattresses from a given area were collected at source.

By making the organization of take-back an obligation for all marketers, the 2021 Anti-Waste for a Circular Economy (AGEC) law has reinforced and standardized this step. Today, member manufacturers and sales outlets play a major role in facilitating collection from their customers, and thus ensuring the last few kilometers to Ecomaison skips. A dedicated network has been designed to direct these skips to locations capable of sorting and dismantling them.

Dismantling: mattresses under the microscope

Organizing the dismantling of mattresses meant identifying areas where it would be worthwhile to set up a unit. These new sites, whether new or converted, require specific equipment.

Thanks to its regular invitations to tender, Ecomaison has identified private partners capable of putting together this efficient network of bedding preparation centers.

At these seven centers, located throughout mainland France, mattresses are sorted according to quality, then according to their main composition (springs or foams). They are then broken down to recover their foams, springs where applicable, and the textiles used for their covers.

Take a behind-the-scenes look at mattress dismantling

Video produced by Véolia with ENVIE teams - La Mézière mattress dismantling site (35)

Foams: back to the future!

Mattress foam

The reuse and recycling of foams has made great strides over the last ten years, increasing the proportion reincorporated in the manufacture of new products.

Mechanical recycling reduces the recovered foam to small flakes, which are then glued together to form agglomerated foam. However, this method has its limitations. For example, it does not produce foams of the same quality as the original ones. These recycled foams are therefore oriented towards uses more compatible with their intrinsic qualities: building or automotive insulation, underpads, sports carpets...

At the same time, innovations in the field of chemical recycling mean that recovered foam can now be reintegrated into the mattress manufacturing circuit. By depolymerizing recycled foam, we are now able to obtain a secondary raw material very similar to that used by manufacturers to make the original foam, and which can therefore be directly integrated into their production chain. While this technology does not yet make it possible to completely dispense with virgin material for the manufacture of new mattresses, it does represent a major step forward in improving the recycling cycle for mattress foams.

Recycling and eco-design: the keys to innovation

In line with its calls for projects to develop recycling and eco-design, Ecomaison has teamed up with a variety of partners to get things moving. Currently, one of the major areas of work is the recovery of textiles from mattress covers, known as Coutils.

These textiles still represent a significant proportion of the materials recovered during dismantling. A past call for projects has enabled us, for example, to develop with Recyc'Matelas Europe a new outlet for these mixed textiles. This major advance, effective from 2024, will make it possible to manufacture building insulation by mechanically recycling these materials, rather than using them as Solid Recovered Fuel (SRF), as is the case today. To complete this initial step forward, the Innovation and Recycling call for projects launched in 2023 has devoted a major section to innovations in textile recycling. Today, it offers excellent prospects for development.
Finally, calls for projects under Ecomaison's Innovation for Ecodesign program support improvements in the eco-design of mattresses to make them more recyclable.

These ten years of progress at every stage of the chain testify to the dynamism of the industry, and augur well for further major advances in the years to come.