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Buying a new mattress will set you back anywhere between a few hundred and a few thousand pounds, so you probably don't want to part with even more money to dispose of your old one.
But finding a way to dispose of a mattress free of charge is no mean feat, especially if you want to do so responsibly.
The National Bed Federation (NBF), estimate the mattress recycling rate in 2018 was less than 20%. It's 2019 report (the latest available) suggests 7.26m replacement mattresses were sold in 2017, while only 1.363m were recycled. That’s a recycling rate of 19%. So that's a definite improvement, but still lower than it could be.
Far too many mattresses – many of which could have been recycled – end up in landfill sites. Keep reading for expert advice on how long a mattress should last, and how to get rid of it once it’s past its best.
If you can’t remember how many years you’ve had your mattress, the chances are it’s time for a new one. Even if it still feels comfortable, it’s likely to be less supportive and hygienic than when it was new.
Nearly a quarter of Which? members expect a new mattress to last more than a decade, according to a survey of 1,098 members in March 2021. That's pretty optimistic, though. About a third said they'd expect it to last 8 to 10 years, which is about right.
The Sleep Council recommends replacing your mattress as often as every seven years, because after that time it will have been subjected to more than 20,000 hours of use. That’s the equivalent of 2,555 nights, which is a lot when you consider that adults lose an average of half a pint of fluid each night, and shed a pound of dead skin cells each year.
Our durability tests reveal that the best mattresses can last up to a decade without softening, sagging or becoming less supportive. As long as you buy a good mattress and clean it regularly, you might be able to eke an extra few years out of it.
Buying a new bed frame won't necessarily extend the life of your new mattress, but be aware that using a mattress with an inappropriate bed frame might invalidate its warranty. Take a look at our to find out more.
Butt the bottom line is: if your mattress is no longer supporting you, or it's more than a decade old, it's time to replace it.
Of the 81 spring mattress we’ve tested, more than half of them earn four stars or more in our tough durability tests.
After measuring the height, firmness and supportiveness of every mattress we test, we then simulate up to a decade of use by rolling a heavy barrel over the mattress 30,000 times. To do well in our durability tests, a mattress must maintain its supportiveness, firmness and height.
Memory foam mattresses tend to perform well in our durability tests. Of the 52 memory foam, foam and latex mattresses we’ve reviewed, over 90% of them earned four or five stars in our lifespan (durability) test. The remaining mattresses got three stars, which is average or acceptable.
However, in the past we have uncovered memory foam mattresses that did abysmally in our durability tests.
Memory foam mattresses still need to be rotated regularly, so there's no less maintenance than with a pocket sprung option.
You have many different options for disposing of your mattress. But some of them are expensive, environmentally damaging and even illegal.
|Method||% of members who used this disposal method|
|Collected by company delivering the replacement||45%|
|Collected by the council||12%|
|Don't know/can't remember||7%|
|Given away to a family/friend||4%|
|Given to charity||3%|
|Collected by a specialist disposal company||2%|
Based on a survey of 1,098 Which? members conducted in March 2021.
Most, if not all, local councils offer a collection and disposal service for bulky waste, which includes beds and mattresses. But it can be surprisingly expensive, and there’s often no guarantee that your mattress won’t end up in landfill – many local authorities simply say that they will recycle some or all of the waste where possible.
Some councils, such as Liverpool City Council and a number of London boroughs, offer free bulky-waste collection, but they’re very much in the minority. Most councils charge a fee to collect bulky waste, and it can be expensive – Argyll and Bute Council and Wealden District Council charge more than £50 for the service, the London Borough of Richmond charges £62 per collection, for example, at time of writing.
If you live in England or Wales, you can find out how much your council will charge for bulky-waste disposal by typing your postcode into the gov.uk website. If you live in Scotland or Northern Ireland, go to your council’s website and search for bulky-waste disposal.
Having the council collect your mattress from your home can be convenient, but make sure you read the terms and conditions carefully. Many councils charge a different price depending on the number of bulky items they’ll be collecting, but bear in mind that a bed frame and a mattress will likely count as at least two items. And items will often only be collected if they’re left in a designated spot.
Your local tip will probably take old mattresses, but to get it there you’ll need a vehicle – and one that's big enough to fit a mattress in. If you have a car but your boot is too small to fit the mattress when flat, you might find that it fits if you roll the mattress up and fasten it with rope.
But that's a lot of effort to go to when the mattress might well just end up in landfill anyway. You might decide you’d rather go to the extra effort of taking it to a dedicated recycling facility, or pay for the convenience of the council or a specialist disposal company to collect it from your home.
At the very least, some parts of your mattress will be recyclable, and it’s possible that all of it will be. And yet, according to The Furniture Recycling Group, Wembley Stadium could be filled five times with the 7.5m mattresses that are discarded in the UK every year.
While mattress recycling is relatively labour-intensive, more and more facilities capable of doing so are springing up around the UK. These facilities will break down your mattress into its recyclable components – springs can then be melted down and remade into new metal products, while synthetic layers such as foam can either be used to make carpet underlay, or else can be sent to a plant where the waste can at least be converted into energy.
Aside from taking your old mattress to your nearest recycling centre yourself, the best way to ensure your mattress is recycled is to pay for it to be collected. But whether you use the local council, the company delivering your new mattress or a specialist mattress removal company, make sure it is clearly stated that the mattress will be recycled. Otherwise, it’s probably best to assume that it won’t be.
Nearly half of Which? members disposed of their last mattress by having it collected by the company delivering their replacement mattress, according to 1,098 respondents of our survey in March 2021.
That’s perhaps not surprising given the number of major high street retailers now offering this service. Argos, for example, offers to collect and recycle your old mattress for a fee of £20 when you buy a new mattress. Ikea remove-and-recycle service is still suspended. John Lewis offers a similar service, charging new mattress customers a fee of £29.95 to responsibly dispose of their old mattress.
Getting the retailer to collect your old mattress when it delivers the new one is only convenient if you’re sure that the new mattress is the one for you. Otherwise you’ll be left without a bed at all if you later decide to return it. If you’re in any doubt, specialist mattress companies such as Collect Your Old Bed can pick up and dispose of your old mattress at a time of your choosing.
Whatever method you choose, it’s always worth making sure the company you use actually recycles the mattress.
We’d also recommend checking how much your local council charges before paying for one of these services, or else you risk paying over the odds.
If your mattress is still in good condition, consider donating it to charity or giving it away free. That way you can help someone in need, as well as ensuring that it doesn't end up in landfill.
Organisations such as British Heart Foundation, British Red Cross and Emmaus will resell your mattress and put the proceeds towards a good cause. Several other charities also accept mattress donations, so if there's a cause you particularly want to support, it’s worth contacting the charity directly.
As a general rule, these organisations will collect your mattress free of charge, but they might request that you send images first to prove that it's of acceptable quality. Any organisation accepting a mattress donation will expect it to be fit for use, clean and have a fire label intact.
Another way to ensure your mattress stays out of landfill sites is to use a non-profit initiative such as Freecycle, or your local equivalent group, which can put you in touch with someone in the local area looking for a free second-hand mattress.
Other methods of mattress disposal are damaging to the environment, antisocial and/or illegal.
Don't burn your mattress. Not only is a mattress fire hard to control, but the fumes released by the fire could also be damaging to both you and the environment.
You can get rid of your old mattress using a skip, but you'll be contributing to a landfill problem.
Of course, you should never dispose of your mattress by putting it in someone else’s skip or, worse yet, simply abandoning it at the side of the road. As well as being environmentally harmful, fly tipping is illegal and can result in a large fine.