Mattress recyclers brace for influx of dead beds

New Metro disposal fee expected to be boon for business



Video courtesy of Metro Vancouver

You’ll have to pay to get rid of an old mattress from now on in Metro Vancouver.

The regional district has started charging a $20 disposal fee on mattresses and box springs that arrive at local transfer stations effective Jan. 1 to help subsidize the costs of recycling them and avoid clogging the landfill.

The change is just what Zac Plavsic has been lobbying for.

The Beijing Olympic windsurfer is one of four young partners who co-founded mattressrecycling.ca two years ago to offer a green solution to the old mattress problem in the region.

They realized more than 100,000 mattresses a year were ending up in the garbage in the Lower Mainland – an huge waste of resources considering they’re more than 90 per cent recyclable.

“We said this is ridiculous,” Plavsic said. “It’s the equivalent of two times the volume of B.C. Place. That’s a pretty big difference if we’re able to remove that from the landfill.”

Nobody was attempting to recycle mattresses west of Toronto, so the partners – including Fabio Scaldaferri, who was running a successful student landscaping firm – decided to take the plunge.

Zac Plavsic was an Olympic windsurfer for Canada before joining friends in the mattress recycling business.

They now charge residents $14 to responsibly recycle old mattresses, with volume rates available for regular suppliers like hospitals, universities and hotels.

Most of the $20 fee Metro charges at transfer stations will go to mattressrecycliing.ca, provided a competitor doesn’t start up.

Inside their warehouse, a mattress can be disassembled in as little as five minutes.

The metal from the springs go to metal recyclers.

The polyurethane foam gets chipped up for use in carpet underlay.

Wood and cotton go to whoever has a use for them.

Plavsic says the venture is far from lucrative.

“It’s a very labour-intensive process,” he said. “It’s pretty much a breakeven business. We’re trying to do a service for the environment.”

But they’re bracing for big change.

With mattresses banned from the dump and the Metro fee now in place, they expect to process 40,000 to 80,000 beds this year – as much as a ten-fold increase from less than 8,000 in 2010.

As for the disposal fee, Plavsic argues it’s not unreasonable.

He notes larger televisions are now sold with a $31.75 environmental fee tacked on to cover future recycling costs and e-waste depot operations.

“When you buy a $1,500 mattress, you’re not paying any recycling fee for that.”

He’s aware of concerns that the new disposal fee could prompt more illegal dumping but he’s hopeful that won’t happen.

Residents can avoid paying the full $20 Metro fee by dropping a mattress off at mattressrecycling.ca in person, donating them when possible (call the Recycling Council of B.C. at 604-RECYCLE or see www.metrovancouverrecycles.org) or by having a retailer take the old mattress back when buying a new one.

Dropping off other garbage at a transfer station also now costs more.

Metro raised its tipping fees 18 per cent from $82 to $97 per tonne Jan. 1.

The tipping fee for yard and garden waste, including food waste and wood waste, rose from $59 to $63 per tonne. The minimum dumping fee is $10 for small loads or $20 at peak times at some transfer stations.

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