Why your good night's sleep is so hard on Nova Scotia landfills
That cozy mattress you spend thousands of hours sleeping on can become a real nightmare when it shows up at a landfill.
Every year, Nova Scotians toss out about 95,000 mattresses, according to a report commissioned by Cumberland Joint Services Management Authority (CJSMA), the organization that collects solid waste for Amherst, Oxford and the Municipality of the County of Cumberland.
The majority of those mattresses end up in landfills because there is no provincewide mattress recycling program, unlike in P.E.I.
Mattresses take up a lot of room at landfills, are hard to compact and fight back when they're broken apart.
When compactors, which are large, modified front-end loaders, drive over the garbage to crush it, the innards of a mattress become a hazard.
"The springs get caught in our equipment and they start wrapping up around transmissions and axles and things of that nature," said Stephen Rayworth, CJSMA's general manager.
"And if we don't detect it fast enough or see it fast enough, it can get to the point where we need to get out torches or cutters or things like that to cut the stuff off or it can do significant damage."
Spending time freeing compactors from springs keeps the machines and workers tied up with repairs, which is costly and time consuming.
Rayworth said mattresses cause problems for most landfills.
CJSMA wanted to see if recycling the mattress could solve those problems, so it hired a consulting firm to study the issue. It found there is no recycling station for mattresses in Nova Scotia, so the mattresses would have to be shipped to Montreal to be broken down and recycled.
Secondly, the recycling facility only accepts mattresses if they are dry and clean, which means that mattresses could not be collected curbside because they would most likely get dirty and wet. Mattresses also need to be free of bedbugs and mould to be eligible for recycling.
Any mattresses collected would also need to be stored in a clean, dry place until there were enough to ship to Montreal.
P.E.I. has managed to pull that off. It offers free mattress recycling to its residents, while businesses have to pay a disposal fee. The Island Waste Management Corporation has stations set up across P.E.I. where Islanders can drop off their old mattresses. It then stores the mattresses and ships them off to Montreal. It found it was cheaper to recycle the mattresses than to landfill them.
That's not the case for Nova Scotia, where the study done for CJSMA said the cost to recycle a mattress was the same as putting it in a landfill, about $35.
Rayworth said the municipalities in his area are in the process of figuring out what they are going to do.
The study recommended adopting a program similar to what is offered for tire recycling in the province.
"When you buy a mattress, the person that sells you the mattress collects the old mattress and they store it until they have a load to ship and they ship them out for recycling," said Rayworth.
Sleep Country in Halifax offers a program like that. When you buy a new mattress from them, they charge you a $15 fee to take the old mattress away. It is either given to a charity or broken apart to recycle, according to the company's website.
But a provincewide mattress recycling program isn't on the Nova Scotia government's radar right now, said Bob Kenney, a recycling development officer with Nova Scotia's Department of Environment.
He said the province recently passed other environmental regulations and is working on those, such as used oil regulations and additional electronic disposal rules. It is also talking with municipalities about extended producer responsibility for packaging.
"We're quite occupied with a lot of those things, so I think it's more of a timing issue right now," said Kenney. "It isn't on ... the government agenda at this point in time, simply because there's lots of other things on the agenda."
However, Kenney said if municipalities are looking at doing a pilot program to recycle mattresses, they can contact the Environment Department for help. He also said if more people let mattress retailers know that recycling their old beds is important, more businesses may begin offering programs.
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