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

<p>The U.S. Navy and Hilton Hotels have begun their own programs to recycle the tens of thousands of mattresses they use each year; a further sign of how sustainability has entered the mainstream.</p>

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."

Photo of mattresses by angelo gilardelli via Shutterstock

Hilton Worldwide, meanwhile, recently announced its new mattress recycling program, which will recycle about 85 percent of the mattresses and box springs used by the hotel chain.

 “Our hotels have purchased more than 50,000 mattresses in the past two years in the U.S. alone,” said Randy Gaines, vice president, engineering operations for the Americas at Hilton Worldwide, in a statement. “This program presents a great opportunity for our hotels globally, offers a cost savings to owners and underscores Hilton Worldwide’s commitment to further reduce our waste output.”

Hilton will work with the recycling and warehousing company DH Hospitality to have the used mattresses recycled into other products.

Along with its wood frame, the average mattress contains about nine pounds of cotton and 25 pounds of steel.  Mattress material is recycled into flooring, carpet padding, construction materials, steel springs and auto parts.

The International Sleep Products Association (ISPA) lists more than 40 mattress recycling centers across the United States and Canada.

The St. Vincent de Paul mission calls itself the world leader in mattress recycling -- with over 120,000 mattresses and box springs recycled annually at its California and Oregon facilities -- while providing entry-level jobs, health care and transferable skills to ex-offenders and others having difficulty in finding work.

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