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Mattresses – A „sleeping giant„ for raw materials

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Mattresses represent a challenge of no small proportions when it comes to sustainability. In Australia alone, around 1.25 million mattresses end up in landfills every year – and until recently only about 10% of them were recycled. An average mattress contains 1.5 kg of polyurethane foam which over 1,875 tonnes of foam is thrown away. Yet it doesn’t have to be this way. Until recently, mattresses have been a problem to solve – now, they could become the solution we’ve been looking for to kickstart a new lifecycle approach and help secure a more sustainable future.

For us, the magic word is circular economy. The circular economy goes beyond "simple" recycling, instead championing a restorative industrial system geared towards designing out waste. This takes business sustainability to a whole new level. It also involves a new way of thinking by taking into account the reuse and recycling of resources in advance. It is a real challenge – but with more cross-industry collaboration and increasingly advanced enabling technologies, a truly waste-free economy seems more achievable than ever before.

A social enterprise for sustainable solutions

In the case of Australian mattresses, a smart end-of-life solution was the key to more sustainability and a circular economy. This is why we’re actively talking to potential partners right along the value chain to identify feasible solutions and achieve real results. Together with other passionate industry members in Australia, we founded the Soft Landing Product Stewardship Scheme, along with companies such as AH Beard, Sealy, Tempur, Harvey Norman, Domayne, Thermotec, TIC Mattress Recycling, SleepMaker and Joyce Foam Products.
The scheme aims to bring the number of mattresses brought to landfills in Australia down to zero within five years. To achieve this it diverts waste mattresses from landfills and strips the components for reuse, developing a closed-loop material recovery scheme for mattresses. Not only is Soft Landing Australia’s largest mattress recycler, they were also named Social Enterprise of the Year in 2016.

Reduced reliance on virgin materials – closing the loop

“The Soft Landing scheme aligns with our desire to preserve our planet and improve the quality and safety of the lives of millions,” says Rebecca Lee, Managing Director, Covestro Australia, and member of the board of Soft Landing Product Stewardship Scheme “If we can recover from the mattress components like steel and foam, recycling and reusing these components, it reduces our reliance on virgin materials, thus closing the loop.”
Through the scheme’s recycling partner Soft Landing, steel springs, foam and fabrics are recovered, recycled or rebirthed into new products. Scheme members are also working with the SMaRT centre at the University of New South Wales in researching and developing new materials from the recovered mattress components, including acoustic panels and high strength, non-flammable building panels. This is a welcome innovation, creating a sustainable mattress industry for Australia. “Polyurethane contributes significantly to the quality of our modern life,” says Rebecca. “It is too valuable to end up in landfill.”

Cardyon®- what sustainable dreams are made of

We know that the circular economy and sustainable development goals are challenging. Yet according to Persefoni Hilken, Venture Manager cardyon®, with challenges also come opportunities. “A great example is our product cardyon®, where we chemically bind CO2 into a polyol. This creates a raw material that can be used to produce flexible foams. With this process, we’re reusing up to 20% of emitted carbon dioxide and are cutting down on the amount of fossil fuel used in production.” With cardyon® we are also broadening our raw material base beyond fossil hydrocarbons and bio-based raw materials, and by bringing CO2 back into the value chain we are helping to close the carbon loop.

A brighter use of CO2

Cardyon® represents a breakthrough innovation which enables manufacturers to look at alternative and more sustainable raw materials while reducing their reliance on fossil fuels – and all this without sacrificing quality. What’s more, cardyon® and our CO2 technology have exciting potential not just for flexible foam but also for other applications.
If you want to know more about cardyon®, go to www.covestro.com/en/cardyon/overview
For more information on the Soft Landing Product Stewardship Scheme visit www.recyclemymattress.com.au

If we can recover from the mattress components like steel and foam, recycling and reusing these components, it reduces our reliance on virgin materials, thus closing the loop.

Rebecca Lee

Managing Director, Covestro Australia, and member of the board of Soft Landing Product Stewardship Scheme

Key benefits

  • Reliable: Rely on consistently high quality and reliable delivery. 
  • Sustainable: Help close the carbon loop with cardyon® by bringing CO2 back into the value chain. 
  • Innovative: Position your company as an innovative frontrunner in the flexible foam sector. 

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