TEN years ago, Luke Cooper was having trouble finding a convenient and affordable way to dispose of old mattresses when he was struck with the realisation there was a gap in the market that he could fill.
But even better than filling a need, was the fact that he could create a business that was actually good for the environment by keeping tonnes of components out of landfill every year.
It was a slow and costly process to build his dream, but 10 years later the former mattress salesman’s mattress and furniture recycling company Bedrecycle is one of the Mornington Peninsula’s business success stories.
“It was a dream that grew out of a need, but I believed in it and to date we have processed thousands of mattress and bed bases and kept tonnes of waste from ending up in the environment,” Cooper said. “I’m pretty happy with that, it’s a good feeling to find a niche that has a purpose and a positive impact.”
Cooper, who lives in Mount Martha, says nearly the entire mattress or bed base can be stripped down to its parts to ensure as much material can be recycled as possible. The wood is packaged and sold as kindling, the foam used to make other products, the crushed springs going to scrap metal and other parts used for carpet underlay.
His recycling team drives all over Melbourne, and sometimes beyond, to bring mattresses to the company’s Somerville plant for processing. There are plans to take the business interstate.
Sustainability Victoria estimates that around 300,000 mattresses are disposed of in Victoria every year; across the country that figure grows to around 1.8 million. A large percentage go to landfill, where it can take more than 100 years to break them down.
About 100,000 mattresses are illegally dumped each year, leaving municipal councils to deal with them and pass costs on to ratepayers.
But governments are getting tough on waste, and strong state and federal regulations have been introduced mandating that producers take stewardship of the recycling of their products, including mattresses.
In November, Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek added the mattress industry to the Product Stewardship Priority List, putting the onus on the mattress industry to lessen the environmental impact of its products.
Cooper says there is still a long way to go, but his company “will keep going, one mattress at a time”.
Most councils, including Mornington Peninsula Shire Council, also offer mattress recycling services.
Daniel Hinson, the shire’s circular economy and waste team leader, said mattresses are recycled on-site at the shire’s resource recovery centres by separating the metal components, fabric and timber components. The metal springs are sent for metal recycling, but the residual fabric and timber is taken to landfill.