Mattress mountain: a not-so-cosy problem piles up as mattress craze creates waste
The perfect night’s sleep is the ultimate quest for many – but is our growing love of Instagram-friendly mattresses with generous returns policies doing more harm than good?
In recent years, a glut of social media-savvy businesses have sparked a revolution of mattresses fit for the social media age. Bright, modern designs and lofty promises of space-age technology designed to provide a restful slumber have charmed thousands of buyers, especially thanks to their consumer-friendly returns policies.
“They turn up in a box, with next day delivery, and you can send it back if you hate it – and there are always voucher codes online so you never pay full price,” says Lara, 29, who purchased one such mattress this year. Other buyers agree that the appeal of these mattresses is in the ease of purchase and the generous returns policy, with 26-year-old Matt commenting: “If you’ve got to sleep on it every night, it has to be perfect. I wouldn’t spend hundreds of pounds on something for it just to give me backache and then not be able to return it.”
Many of these modern mattress firms offer long ‘no quibble’ return guarantees, giving consumers upwards of three months, some even 365 days to try out their sleep-giving properties before either keeping or returning the mattress. Divert.co.uk, a rubbish removal expert, say these policies are causing an unacceptable rise in landfill waste – and should be banned.
A spokesperson for Divert.co.uk, Mark Hall, said:
“These returns policies might seem like a no-brainer for buyers – and some companies promise returns are refurbished and re-sold, appealing to the eco minded consumer. But the more sinister reality is that hundreds of these mattresses are returned each day and, in order to cope with demand, brands use cheap local waste removal firms who are taking them straight to the tip – destined for landfill.
“Firms should be required by law to limit their returns policies to a period which means most returned mattresses can be refurbished, cleaned, and resold – or face hefty fines for unnecessary pollution.”
“We’ve been offered various contracts to collect these perfectly good mattresses and turned them down as we refuse to take them to landfill, which is what is demanded from the client”
Pollution is even more of a key issue with modern mattresses, Divert.co.uk warns, due to the rise in demand for memory foam mattresses.
While comfortable and supportive to sleep on, memory foam is made from polyurethane, a type of plastic. While recyclable in some forms, once the material has been made into a foam, it can’t be returned to another form – diminishing its re-use potential. Additionally, many mattresses – while they do contain other, more easily recycled materials such as metal springs or fabric coverings – tend to be sent to landfill whole. This further worsens their environmental impact: a high price to pay, even for a peaceful night’s sleep.
“Even something as small as mandating that mattresses should be stripped to their constituent parts and recycled before disposal could have an enormously beneficial effect. The impact that this boom in mattress sales could have must be caught before it is too late – and it requires bold moves and truly environmentally-friendly thinking by legislators. Shortening return times and requiring any reusable material to be stripped is the very least we can do to avoid sending thousands of tonnes of useless plastic to landfill after just months of use.”