Some Massachusetts Cities Left Scrambling by New Mattress Recycling Rule
UPDATE: Community-specific updates can be found at the bottom of this article.
Massachusetts residents will no longer be able to trash their mattresses or box springs starting Nov. 1.
Some municipalities — like the city of Taunton — have set up plans and already advised residents how to recycle these items under the new regulations.
Others, including the city of New Bedford, have not yet made clear if any plans are in place.
Background on the mattress recycling rule
The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection announced the new ban on disposing of mattresses/box springs and other textiles — as well as commercial food waste over half a ton — in October 2021.
But according to Erik Dyson, founder of New Bedford-based mattress recycler HandUp, some cities and towns in southeastern Massachusetts were taken by surprise by the rule.
Dyson said most municipalities in the state collect mattresses as bulky items through their current disposal service, or tell residents to bring them to the local transfer station.
Either way, almost all of them end up in landfills — which he said is an "extraordinarily inefficient use of landfill space."
This is because mattresses take up a large volume with very little material, most of which can be recycled into other items, he said.
Preserving landfill space is a major goal of the new regulations, the DEP noted in its announcement last year.
New Bedford mattress recycler
Located at Kilburn Mill, HandUp is the only mattress recycling company in the area and one of just five in the state.
Dyson, who hails from Mattapoisett, said the company is now signing around a contract a day with local municipalities, including the city of Taunton and the town of Fairhaven.
Officials from a few local governments — including one on Cape Cod — admitted they did not know until recently that the rule change was coming, he added.
Although the company has held discussions with the city of New Bedford on providing mattress recycling services, Dyson said no agreement has been reached.
Interim city spokesperson Holly Huntoon said Tuesday that city officials have been speaking with ABC Disposal about the implications of the new regulation.
When asked what plan the city has in place to recycle mattresses, she noted, "our objective is to ensure the cleanliness of our neighborhoods while preserving the space in our landfill."
HandUp was founded in January 2022, and Dyson said it has been operating at a scale that allows for the expected expansion of demand leading up to the November deadline.
"We're hiring new people every day," he said.
Although it's a for-profit company, Dyson said when HandUp starts operating at full capacity, he plans to donate up to 60% of profits to groups that help immigrants and refugees.
What does this mean for SouthCoast residents?
Depending on the contract with each city or town, HandUp may agree to do curbside pickup — as it will do in Fairhaven — or the city may collect mattresses or ask its residents to deposit them for bulk pickup and transfer to Kilburn Mill.
Taunton has already notified residents of the change, writing in an advisory last week that mattresses and box springs will no longer be collected as bulk waste starting Nov. 1.
"Other bulk waste items, like upholstered chairs, furniture and sofas will still be allowable waste collected through the City's curbside program," the notice reads.
HandUp will provide curbside pickup in Taunton for a $35 per item fee (a mattress and box spring set counts as two items.)
The fee was approved by Taunton's city council on Sept. 20.
UPDATES: Statement from the city of Fall River about mattress recycling:
"We in Fall River have been in compliance and have diverted mattresses from the waste stream for years. We are in constant communications with our DEP regional Representative Missy Hollenbach on this matter as well as other issues regarding recycling and recovery.
Fall River was recently the recipient of a $10,000 grant for the purchase of a mattress recovery container from Mass. DEP."
Information about bulky item collection, which includes mattresses, can be found at fallriverma.org/bulky-items.
UPDATE: Since this article was published, the Greater New Bedford Regional Refuse Management District released the following information on how New Bedford and Dartmouth residents can recycle their mattresses and textiles.
New Bedford residents: may continue to dispose of their mattresses and box springs as they would for other bulky items through Dec. 31, but there will be a disposal fee starting Jan. 1, 2023. The fee amount will be sent to residents ahead of the deadline.
Dartmouth residents: SMART customers can schedule a curbside collection appointment with the DPW for a fee of $35 per mattress and $10 per box spring. Those with transfer station permits can drop off their mattress or box spring at the Russells Mills Road station for $25 per mattress and $14 per box spring. HandUp curbside collection in Dartmouth is also available for mattresses for a $35 fee.