The Boomerang Bring Back and Re-Use Project was set-up in January 2014 with initial support from the EPA and the Cork City Council. The key objective was to provide employment and training opportunities for the long-term unemployed.
There is a challenge in finding solutions to re-using and recycling textiles as some components may be suitable for production of geo-textiles. Geo-textiles are permeable fabrics which, when used in association with soil, have the ability to separate, filter, reinforce, protect, or drain.
In general, the materials from mattresses consist of the following: steel springs, wood, and textiles made from horse hair, felt, foam and mixed fabrics. In good condition many of these components can be recycled; the springs and bases can be re-used, the steel is also recycled with a good market value and the rest of the wood can be used for kindling.
Components may also be suitable for automative insulation (sound insulation), padded envelopes or as new mattress textiles. Part of the work of this project is to research and find appropriate avenues for reuse and recycling of the textiles. “The project allows for the diversion of a problematic bulky waste to be diverted from landfills and disposed of in an environmentally friendly manner,” says Bernie Connolly, Development Coordinator, Cork Environmental Forum. Whilst initially engaging with retail businesses they hope to pilot the recovery of mattresses from the general public through possible “amnesty days” once or twice a year to address the significant problem of dumping and burning of mattresses.
Currently, local support is being provided for by a Project Manager and three TÚS Scheme workers. The TÚS Initiative is a community work placement program, started in 2011, that provides short-term working opportunities for unemployed people. The number of TÚS workers will increase as the number of mattresses increases in the next few months. There is a focus on providing worker training and research will be undertaken to find solutions for the re-use or recycling of the fabric components in the mattresses. This may be done in cooperation with the existing facility in Dublin. The project is an opportunity to create a viable social enterprise model which can be replicated in other cities in Ireland – and elsewhere.
The Boomerang Recycling project began from an idea during a Global Action Plan training that Cork Environmental Forum ran in Farranree. There, participants expressed that they would like to see a project developed in the Northside of the city that would have a recycling/reuse focus and would provide employment opportunities. A steering group evolved with a number of partners and a lengthy period of examining possibilities ensued. One of the partners, SMILE Resource Exchange, informed the group of a mattress recycling project in Dublin and a visit there made it possible for a similar project to be set-up in Cork.
Between forty and fifty thousand mattresses per year end up in landfills in Ireland and over 90% of the mattress can be recycled. It is very common to see mattresses in skips, or trash bins around the city.
What do you think about recycling mattresses? What has your city done about old mattresses, or similar items that could be diverted from the landfill?
Credit: Images by Keiron Phillips and Olivia Dolan. Data linked to sources.