ISU Department of Residence Sustainability Efforts Lead to Recycling of 900 Mattresses

AMES, Iowa—With some help from Ohio Mattress Recovery and Recycling, Iowa State University’s Department of Residence recently recycled 900 used mattresses from Frederiksen Court on the ISU campus. The green project is another step in ISU’s Live Green sustainability initiative.

Each year, roughly 20 million mattresses are thrown away in the United States, leading to the consumption of over 450 million cubic feet of landfill space. Because mattresses don’t compact well, they are often a problem for landfill equipment operators, consuming massive amounts of space even after compacting and often times damaging landfill equipment.

But by utilizing the services of Ohio Mattress Recovery and Recycling, the ISU Department of Residence has saved roughly 20,000 cubic feet of landfill space. Started in 2009 by former teacher Chuck Brickman, Ohio Mattress Recovery and Recycling recycles 94% of the materials found in each mattress. The mattresses are manually deconstructed and the wood, steel, and cotton are sent off for recycling.

“Our staff continually evaluate ways to be more thoughtful and creative in our sustainability activities,” said Pete Englin, Department of Residence. “Staff members identified this opportunity and partnered with Iowa State University’s asset disposal on implementing this new initiative. While it costs about 20% more than sending our mattresses to the landfill, the long-term benefits of recycling well exceeds this initial expense.”

While its main purpose is sustainability, the mattress recycling project didn't just help the environment. As part of Ohio Mattress Recovery and Recycling's policy of giving back, portions of the recycling return are donated back to the university and the community. Ten percent of its recycling return was donated to the ISU General Scholarship Fund. An additional 10% of the return was donated to the United Way of Story County.

Staff members in the Department of Residence continue to locate new and innovative sustainability initiatives. Their on-going efforts recently led to the department’s reception of the highest environmental award in the state of Iowa. Earlier this year, the Department of Residence, along with ISU Dining and Facilities Planning and Management, was awarded the Governor’s Environmental Excellence Award for the joint impact of the departments’ sustainability efforts, including a recycling program in the residential halls and apartment communities that diverted 36 tons of recyclable material.