Whenever journalists ask me what piece of legislation I’d like to see with regards to waste and recycling, it always comes down to one thing:
It would make things much easier if every local authority had the same kerbside and household waste and recycling centre collections, so that we had uniformity throughout the country.
I get asked questions nearly every day by people about how they can recycle certain items, and it’s difficult to give helpful suggestions because what’s true for me, might not be true for you.
For example, I live 20 minutes from my parents and their kerbside collection is entirely different to mine. Two miles from my home is a county border and on the other side of that, the recycling facilities are unrecognisable!
The Recycling Postcode Lottery is real!
So I was interested in some research done recently, which showed that we’re facing a ‘Recycling Postcode Lottery’ when disposing of some large items too.
When I moved into our current house, a zero waste lifestyle didn’t even enter my mind. My husband-to-be and I had to squash two houses worth of stuff into one small house and many things needed to be got rid of. That included large items like kitchen appliances, beds and mattresses. I sold bits and pieces, Freecycled what I could, but you know how it is – once moving day arrives, everything has to go.
Back in the day I could put any large item, such as a fridge/freezer, sofa or bed, on the kerbside, call our local council and they would collect it for free.
I admit I made full use of this service!
Bulky Waste Collections
A few years later, they announced they would be charging a fee for ‘bulky waste collections’. Items for this collection include three-piece suites, white kitchen goods, beds, mattresses, bedroom and dining room furniture, garden toys/furniture and electrical items. We now have to pay per item (£15.00 (for one to three items) or £30.00 (for four to six items)).
Back to the research then: British bed manufacturer Happy Beds has found a huge disparity in how much local authorities charge for collecting and recycling mattresses.
Some councils offer free recycling collection services, while others cost up to £75! Isn’t that an incredible difference?
Related article: Six ways to recycle old bedding
The research reviewed the bulky waste collection services of 378 councils in England, Scotland and Wales, and found 20 local authorities (5.3% in total) provide free collection of larger items such as beds and mattresses.
Liverpool City Council is one such. I have seen several fly tipped mattresses in my area over the years and this is one of the reasons Liverpool City Council still offer free bulky waste collections. Councillor James Noakes, Cabinet Member for Streetscene, said:
“We have taken a decision to retain free bulky waste collections because we want to make it as easy as possible for people to dispose of large items and prevent dumping or fly tipping. Our bulky household waste collection partner has completed over 1.1million collections over the last 30 years. Everything is checked to see if it is suitable for reuse, and if it is, much of it is given away for free through 200 referral agencies.”
The most expensive mattress recycling is £75
By contrast, the UK’s most expensive council for disposal of bulky waste, Aylesbury Vale in Buckinghamshire, charges £75 – almost 3 times the UK average of £26.
15 of the free-recycling councils are in England and 6 in London: Tower Hamlets, Waltham Forest, Croydon, Hillingdon, Hounslow, and Redbridge.
The study demonstrates the UK’s recycling ‘postcode lottery’. While someone living within the local authority of Hillingdon can have their mattress recycled free of charge, residents of nearby Richmond have to pay £60 for their local authority to collect their bulk item.
Happy Beds research
Joy Richards of Happy Beds, who conducted the research said:
“Recycling old mattresses is an excellent step to reducing a household’s contribution to a growing waste problem, but it’s hard if local authorities are charging nearly as much as a new mattress will cost.
While we do stock thousands of mattresses, our cheapest product is £89.99 – meaning that if someone in Aylesbury Vale bought it and had to recycle theirs, their total outlay would nearly double!”
How to recycle your mattress
To make it easy for people to find their best option, Joy and her team have created an interactive map to make it easy for people to find out how much council recycling is near them.
With only a small percent of mattresses being recycled, the majority being landfilled and the remainder being incinerated, it’s important to find a sustainably responsible way to dispose of your old mattress. I guess the first thing, like all ‘green’ purchases is only to buy new when absolutely necessary, so look after your mattress by rotating or flipping it, use mattress protectors and vacuum it occasionally too, to ensure it lasts as long as possible.
What about you – how much does your local authority charge for mattress collection? And does it differ to your friends and relatives?