New mattresses are coming to a dorm near you! But wait! What’s going to happen to that old one? Glad you asked: Northeastern endeavors to recycle as much as possible, mattresses included. This summer, Facilities undertook a serious task of replacing mattresses throughout many of the residential buildings on its Boston campus. The new mattresses are of a higher quality with a longer lifespan and have dual-sided custom comfort features to better meet the needs of students living on campus. All of the old mattresses were beyond their anticipated lifespan and were collected for recycling.

The university began recycling mattresses more than five years ago as part of ongoing efforts to increase sustainable operating practices. When practical, the university has also donated dorm mattresses for reuse opportunities. Following the devastation of Hurricane Maria across the Caribbean in September 2017, the university donated a large number of mattresses that would have otherwise been recycled to relief efforts in Puerto Rico. Scott Peterson, Residential Operations Manager for Facilities Services, said these reuse and recycling efforts are not only the right thing to do environmentally and socially, but they also instill a sense of goodwill for the staff. Facilities staff are involved on a daily basis in sustainable operating practices; these practices often carry forward into their everyday lives, more broadly advancing sustainability efforts.

According to Sue Higgins, Associate Director for Materials and Recycling at Northeastern, “Approximately 3000 mattresses were replaced during the Summer of 2021, and 100 percent of the old mattresses removed were collected for recycling. This is equivalent in volume to twelve tractor-trailer loads packed full of mattresses and resulted in about 45 tons of waste diverted from disposal.” The university was able to recycle this large amount of mattresses due to its partnership with three mattress recycling vendors: Green Mattress, LRP Recycling, and UTEC. The majority of mattresses were processed at the Green Mattress recycling facility in Milford, MA, where more than 85% of the components of a mattress are recovered and recycled (including steel springs, foam, and fabric).

The mattress replacement project involved a team of Northeastern staff in partnership with the university’s vendors. Efforts involved logistical consideration of removing the mattresses from the rooms, getting them down to ground level, and live-loading them onto trucks. The intense summer heat and the sheer number of mattresses that had to be moved made the task more difficult. The removal and recycling efforts also had to be paired very closely with the receipt and installation of new mattresses, which was challenging this past summer due to pervasive supply chain issues. These efforts were carefully coordinated by Rich Bekerian, Associate Director of Transportation, Warehouse, and Fleet Management for Northeastern Facilities Services. Under Rich’s direction, the Residential Building Superintendents were responsible for executing the massive, labor-intensive undertaking of mattress removal and replacement. And boy, did they succeed!

Sue emphasized that mattress recycling is not a cheap undertaking. However, the fact that mattresses are more than 85% recyclable played a crucial role in continuing this recurring program. The university is committed to reducing waste generated on the campus and ensuring its transition to a more sustainable institution never stops.

Written by Alex Gritsinin – September 26th, 2021