Your Guide to Responsibly Getting Rid of an Old Mattress

Rest easy knowing your old bedroom essential is in the right hands.

If your mattress is sunken in the shape of your form, it's time for an upgrade. According to the Sleep Foundation, most traditional mattresses only hold up for seven to 10 years before softening and sagging, leaving you with sleepless nights and aching joints. Once you've purchased a new mattress, you might start considering your options for getting rid of the old one. While donation is an option through some charitable organizations, many don't accept the bedroom essentials for a variety of different reasons—state laws governing the reuse of mattresses is just one reason why this process can be complicated.

If you're unable to find a place to donate, properly disposing of an old mattress is the way to go, but doing so requires some planning: Putting a mattress out with your regular household trash isn't the best option, as they take up a huge amount of space in landfills, can release chemicals into the surrounding land and water supply, and will require years to break down. So, how do you go about removing your old mattress in a safe, responsible way?

Call local chapters of your favorite charities.

Donating a mattress may sound like a simple way to do good by your community and the environment, but state laws regulating cleaning and repackaging make it difficult for most reuse organizations to accept them. Each local outpost of organizations like Goodwill, the Salvation Army, or Habitat for Humanity will have different policies on whether they can accept mattresses; the majority don't, since they can't provide the space to store them or the resources to properly sanitize them. (An exception: In California and Oregon, St. Vincent de Paul works with the Mattress Recycling Council, operating drop-off mattress locations that recycle more than 300,000 mattresses and box springs annually.)

If you're trying to pass on a mint-condition mattress, you can check in with your local furniture bank or homeless shelter to see if they are able to accept it, but be realistic about the comfort and quality of your old bed. "If your mattress isn't giving you a good night's sleep," says Amanda Wall of the Mattress Recycling Council, "it probably isn't in good enough condition for anyone else."

woman moving old mattress
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Find a recycling location.

Recycling is the most effective way to responsibly get rid of your mattress: Most of the material in it—75 percent or more, according to Wall—will be recyclable. "The steel, foam, fibers, and wood can be used in hundreds of new products such as construction rebar, carpet padding, insulation, sound acoustic paneling, mulch or biomass fuel," she says. The Mattress Recycling Council operates sites for commercial and consumer mattress collection in California, Rhode Island, and Connecticut (the consumer branch of the program is Bye Bye Mattress). Since 2015, the nonprofit has recycled more than eight million mattresses, diverting more than 300 million pounds of material from landfills.

Outsource the pickup.

Many junk removal services will take your old mattress for a cost; JunkLuggers, LoadUp, and 1-800-Got-Junk all claim their policy is to donate or recycle mattresses at local facilities instead of dropping them into landfills. "Outside of our program states we have seen local governments like a city or county find a way to recycle mattresses, or a local business or nonprofit that recycles other products expand into mattress recycling," says Wall. "Mattresses also get to our recycling program through a local government's curbside bulky item collection program—check with your public works department, sanitation department, or garbage collector." If you're replacing an old mattress—not simply disposing of an extra—then the company you buy from will often take the old one; look for a mattress supplier with an emphasis on sustainability and a policy of recycling used mattresses—like Saatva—to make sure your bed doesn't end up in a landfill.

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