PORTLAND, Ore. — On March 24, 2022, Oregon became the fourth U.S. state to enact a law establishing a statewide mattress recycling program. The law, signed by Gov. Kate Brown and championed by Sen. James Manning Jr., requires mattress manufacturers to set up and operate a recycling program, overseen by the state, that makes it easy for consumers to recycle their unwanted mattresses.
The new extended producer responsibility, or EPR, law will increase mattress recycling, establish new convenient locations in every county for residents to drop off their mattresses, reduce illegal dumping, and create recycling-sector jobs. As with the Oregon paint stewardship law, retailers will collect a small fee from consumers to fund the program.
“Adding mattresses to the products covered by Oregon’s EPR programs will provide a much-needed service in both urban and rural communities throughout the state,” said Abby Boudouris, senior legislative analyst at the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).
Mattress Recycling Council programs already exist in California, Connecticut, and Rhode Island, and together have collected more than 10 million mattresses. The programs have resulted in 380 million pounds of steel, foam, fiber, and wood being diverted from landfills and recycled into new products.
This new law builds on lessons learned from those programs, such as the need for reapproval of the program plan every five years. In addition, the new law will establish objective, measurable minimum convenience standards and measurable performance goals, mandate an advisory council for multi-stakeholder input, and require the stewardship organization to report to the DEQ on the scope of discarded mattresses not being collected, with recommendations on how to direct these mattresses into the recycling program. It also includes equity considerations, such as a study on effective methods to provide collection services to low-income individuals and multifamily housing.
“This law is the first in a new generation of mattress EPR laws,” said Scott Cassel, CEO and founder of the Product Stewardship Institute. “It’s a big win for so many in Oregon, including the creation of valuable jobs for people with barriers to employment.”
The Product Stewardship Institute facilitated the original model agreement with governments and the mattress industry that led to the first three mattress EPR laws. It also helped facilitate an agreement between Oregon DEQ, Metro, and the International Sleep Products Association that helped pass this new law.
The legislation adds to Oregon’s product stewardship programs for leftover paint, discarded electronics, unused medicines and, most recently, the Recycling Modernization Act, which covers curbside materials.
The new law won praise from Metro Councilor Shirley Craddick, whose district includes the eastern part of the greater Portland region. Metro’s responsibilities include managing greater Portland’s garbage and recycling systems.
“Our council is extremely pleased that mattress manufacturers will be establishing a recycling program for their products in Oregon that will conserve resources and help reduce the illegal dumping of mattresses,” Craddick said. “The legislation will also advance Metro Council’s commitment to equity by working with our community to examine best methods of serving low-income and multifamily residents.