Putting to rest one of the main nuisances in garbage collection, Madison is set to begin recycling the 10,000-plus mattresses discarded annually by city residents.
A proposal before the City Council on Tuesday would set a $10 per mattress or box spring fee — yet another sticker — that will cover the cost of collection, transport, deconstruction and recycling of the some 50 pounds of wood, metal, foam and material that make up a mattress.
Mattress recycling has been a dream of the city’s for a few years because disposal of the bulky items is a landfill nightmare.
“We’ve been counting mattresses,” admitted George Dreckmann, the city’s recycling coordinator.
The last count found between 10,000 and 12,000 a year picked up by city “clamp trucks,” which are dispatched to pluck large discarded items.
With an eye toward charging a reasonable collection fee, data was compiled, costs were assessed, budgets compared and existing efforts examined. Watertown, for example, has such a program, and a new business, Midwest Mattress Recovery.
“We had to test to see if we could separate mattresses successfully from other large items, and wanted to keep the fee at $10,” Dreckmann said.
They also had to calculate how many mattresses they could stuff into a semitrailer. The answer: at least 110.
So Ohio Mattress Recycling’s bid of $900 per truck — the city pays the company — was about right, Dreckmann said.
The other problem was finding a sticker that would stick to a mattress.
“We found some super stickers that will stay,” Dreckmann said.
Ohio Mattress will haul the discards to Cleveland, where they will be torn apart for the wood, metal springs — which are the most valuable — foam and stuffing. According to the company’s website, about 90 percent of a typical mattress is recyclable.
(The company claims a 60-watt light bulb can be run for more than 30 days on the amount of energy saved by recycling one twin mattress.)
Kyle Kopplin, plant manager for the Wisconsin mattress recycler, Midwest, in Watertown, said his company may not have won the Madison bid, but he expects it to be a player in the expanding interest in the process, especially with municipalities. The company charges $15 per mattress for individuals and picks up in Madison, he said.
Dreckmann said the city would like to have this process in place before the big student move-out in August, when cumbersome mattress carcasses despoil downtown curbs. He said the city has discussed the UW-Madison housing program’s participation in the effort.
According to the proposal, stickers would be for sale at libraries and Streets Division offices for $10. Of that $10, the city will pay a $6 to $7 recycling fee, and the difference will cover administration and a one-time equipment cost. Libraries will get $1 for each sticker to cover costs.
Dreckmann said if the mattress effort works well, carpeting and carpet padding are next on the city’s recycling list.