At Hilton, U.S. Navy, recycling goes to the mattresses

What do the U.S. Navy and a major hotel chain have in common? Both are huge consumers of mattresses -- and both are involved in pioneering mattress recycling campaigns.

Mattresses are hard to get rid of, once they've reached the end of their usefulness. Their size and unwillingness to be compressed or crushed means they can take up a lot of landfill space. And they also are hard to incinerate. Discarded mattresses can easily become infested with bedbugs and other parasites, which makes donating them a non-option.

"There's no reason a mattress should go to a landfill," Ralph Bogan, owner of Nine Lives Mattress Recycling, told the Huffington Post. "They're not really giving out permits for new landfills that easily, so it seems like everybody would see the importance of removing anything from a landfill that can be reused."

The Navy has begun a pilot program with South Carolina-based Nine Lives Mattress Recycling to break down about 13,000 well-used mattresses -- the equivalent of 100,000 cubic feet of space -- from several Navy ships. The program reportedly costs $12,000 less than simply having the discarded mattresses end up in a landfill.

The Nine Lives web site says the company currently charges a $5 recycling fee for each mattress and box spring it takes, and recycles up to 90 percent of those mattresses.

For its part, the Navy sounds very gung-ho about the mattress recycling -- and is looking to expand the program to other naval ships, hotels and facilities."This is one of the greatest projects that will affect our solid waste program and recycling program -- ever," says Gregory Jeanguenat with Naval Station Norfolk. "And the largest mass amount of stuff to be moved in one fell swoop rather than worrying about white paper or plastic or something individual. This is a huge amount of product."

Next page: Hilton's mattress recycling efforts

Photo of mattresses by angelo gilardelli via Shutterstock