WATERTOWN, WIS. — Lacking an in-state recycling facility for mattresses, some municipalities and companies have been sending their mattresses from Wisconsin to Ohio. That is one of the reasons Bob Mudler said he was launching the state's first mattress recycling facility.
Wisconsin, a state known for its aggressive recycling agenda, is getting its first full-service mattress recycler.
Bob Mudler, who has more than 16 years of experience in the waste management industry, launched Midwest Mattress Recovery in his hometown of Watertown, Wis., in early March.
While running a waste consulting company to help companies optimize their waste streams, Mudler discovered a lack of alternative solutions to throwing mattresses in a landfill, where they don't compact well and become a hazard when springs pop out and get tangled in machinery.
"I discovered an increased need for this service in the state of Wisconsin over the course of the last year or so," Mudler said. "Companies started asking, 'What can we do with our mattresses besides throwing them in landfills, because we really don't want to do that any more.'"
Lacking an in-state recycler, some local governments and businesses send mattresses to a recycling facility in Ohio, said Cynthia Moore, recycling program coordinator for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. But most unwanted mattresses likely end up in landfills. The DNR doesn't yet have definite numbers regarding the amount of mattresses generated in the state, but Moore said Madison, Wis., spends $100,000 each year on curbside mattress collection and disposal, so the city would welcome an alternative.
Watertown is located about midway between Madison and Milwaukee, the state's major metropolitan areas. Mudler said he expects to process about 2,000 to 3,000 mattresses per month for a total of 25,000 to 35,000 pieces in the business' first year. Several municipalities, hospitality companies and a major university have already expressed "tremendous interest" in working with the company to recycle their mattresses, he said. The Wisconsin DNR has also lent its support.
"We think it's wonderful, absolutely wonderful," Moore said. "Wisconsin's got a great recycling ethic, and in addition to that, mattress recycling is one of the more expensive items for community recycling programs, and they're also a real nuisance to handle at landfills, and handling mattresses has been sort of a constant burden and worry for local governments, so we're absolutely delighted that this individual has taken the initiative to set up a mattress recycling facility in Wisconsin."
Mudler has his eye on becoming one of the largest mattress recyclers in the nation, and in five years aims to be processing 50,000 to 75,000 pieces per year.
Each mattress at Midwest Mattress Recovery will be disassembled manually to recover recyclable metal, polyurethane foam, wood and cotton batting. The first three materials will be sent to separate Wisconsin processors; Mudler is still looking for a home for cotton batting.
Midwest Mattress Recovery will be able to provide pickup service where financially worthwhile and will accept mattresses from in-state and out-of-state sources, Mudler said. The company is also testing a program to recycle upholstered furniture, although the pilot program is not open to the public.
The company accepted more than 270 pieces for recycling before its official open date March 4.
"It's really been a lot of fun getting going; this is like a big puzzle and I've just been trying to put together the pieces," Mudler said. "Everything from finding the right space to getting insurance to employing labor; it's been a tremendous learning experience for me and I've really had a lot of fun with it."