About 1.5 million mattresses are discarded and thrown away in the Netherlands alone every year. It even jumps up to 35 million in Europe and 20 million in the United States. Many mattresses end up as landfill, 2/3 of which is incinerated.
At Auping we work on a world without waste and in which we reuse materials as much as possible. This is why we started the Auping Take Back System (ATBS) in 2011 in the Netherlands. When your new mattress is delivered, we are happy to take your old mattress with us. Even when it is not an Auping mattress. We make sure these mattresses are reused as much as possible, because we want to waste as few materials as possible. And it saves you a trip to the landfill site.
At Auping we want to do even better. With our range of circular mattresses, we take our responsibility as manufacturers for developing a mattress consisting of materials that are suitable for reuse. All of the materials can be recycled into a new Auping mattress over and over again. This means no more waste, no incineration of materials and a closed circle. Now that’s what we call circular. And this is our vision of the future.
We have the ambition that no mattress will end up as landfill or will be burned in the incinirator. With the introduction of our circular mattresses, we take our responsibility as a mattress manufacturer to develop mattresses of which the materials are suitable for re-use. All the materials can be used again and again to create fresh new mattresses. So we would also like to get these mattresses back.
At Auping, we have set up a separate location where our circular mattresses are disassembled. All parts are separated and then processed into raw materials using the correct methods. We do this together with our suppliers and material processors. Currently, this is a small-scale site where we are learning how to efficiently disassemble mattresses of circular design. To achieve a fully closed loop, we cooperate with organisations that have knowledge and experience with high-quality recycling infrastructure for polyester PET bottles, for example. In a few years, when large numbers of circular mattresses have reached the end of their lifespan and are being returned, this process will be optimised and can be scaled up. At that point, the recycling process can be carried out by ourselves and by other parties who are already active in the processing of used mattresses.
We are aiming for a fully closed loop from 2026 onwards. The recycling process will be set up by then and ready to process old circular mattresses. The mattresses that are sold now will not enter the recycling process until after 2026. When it’s time for the consumer to replace their mattress, we’ll make sure it doesn’t end up in a landfill. Actually, we’re not the only ones doing this. National governments in Europe are increasingly enacting legislation mandating the return and disposal of mattresses by the industry as a whole. This EPR (Extended Producer Responsibility) is already in place in Belgium, the Netherlands and France. Old, discarded mattresses can only be returned to recognized mattress recycling companies or waste stations. This will create a transparent return flow.
Via the QR code on the Niaga® label, on the side of the mattress, both consumers and recyclers can find the necessary information on how to return and recycle the mattress. This label is also proof that the mattress is 100% circular.
When a mattress is returned, we first separate the different parts. We then assess which parts are suitable for direct reuse, such as the pocket springs. Obviously, we clean them until they’re as good as new.
After that, all the steel goes to the steel recycling companies and all the polyester goes to companies that recycle polyester. These plants melt down the polyester into granules from which threads are made, for example, to knit new ticking. The same granulate can also be processed to make slightly thicker threads, used to knit Vent-tex®, for example. Auping Evolve is stripped right back to its two original raw materials, so that a new mattress can be made from them.
A return process has already been set up for conventional foam mattresses, because about 90% of the mattress components can be recycled. Not immediately into a new mattress, but into raw materials for other finished products.
Foam mattresses are returned to the recycling company, Retourmatras. This Dutch company was founded in 2009 and processes over 40% of all old mattresses. This is where the process to recycle your old mattress begins.
First of all, all mattresses are scanned using a metal detector. There are many different kinds of mattress. Mattresses with metal inner springs are separated from mattresses without metal inner springs. Each follows a specific recycling process. Next, a specially developed ‘peeling roll’ removes the ticking (outer cover) from the mattress. This fabric is pressed into bales, making it easy to transport. These bales are generally sent to Morocco where there is a large textile industry. They are then turned into, for example, large sheets of cloth.
Metal is filtered from the recycling chain using a large magnet. A pocket spring mattress contains about 4 kg of metal. This material is sent to processing companies which turn it into e.g. door handles.
Most of the material in the flow consists of foam. This foam is shredded and baled. In the past, these bales were sold to Germany, America and the Middle East. However, these large bales are very bulky to store and transport. This is not sustainable so, in 2018, Retourmatras opened its own new factory in Alphen aan de Rijn, where it transforms the foam from old mattresses into ‘bonded foam’. This material is easy to produce in different formats, heights and thicknesses, allowing it to be used in different ways. Bonded foam is useful in e.g. underlay, sound insulation material and as a shock absorber beneath sports and artificial grass pitches.
Auping in the Netherlands and Denmark all participate in the Auping Take Back System. In 2018, 7.673 mattresses were returned via Auping to a recycling company. 82% of these came from the Netherlands.