Greener BeeGreen LivingLiving Green: How to dispose of your old mattress

Mattresses have always been a bit of a problem. Let’s face it, you’re not supposed to use the same mattress forever — but disposing of them is problematic.

Generally you can’t donate them, and they are cumbersome to take to the dump, not to mention what you had to pay to get rid of them in years past.

I remember when it was not uncommon to drive through rural areas of Monterey and Santa Cruz counties and see old mattresses stacked up on the side of the road, left there by people who didn’t want to pay the dump fee.

But all that is changing as more people see the wisdom of recycling mattresses. The fabric, wood, steel and foam that makes up a mattress can be reclaimed or recycled, and that’s good news where this issue is concerned.

Better yet, new programs are providing mattress disposal at no charge to consumers.

The most prominent of these is Bye Bye Mattress, a program of the Mattress Recycling Council, which operates this program in California, Connecticut and Rhode Island. So far, more than one million mattresses in the United States have been recycled in the three states, thanks to the nonprofit council.

There are several agencies around the Monterey Bay participating in the Bye Bye Mattress program, among them the city of Santa Cruz, which began its partnership with BBM in 2016.

The way it works is that consumers pay a recycling fee upfront when they purchase a new mattress, which funds the BBM program.

Santa Cruz has had a particularly tough time with used mattresses and box springs. Because of the large student population there, an enormous number of mattresses were being left behind or illegally dumped, according to city waste reduction manager Mary Simmons.

“This time of year is our heaviest mattress recycle season with students moving out,” she said. “Last June, the city received over 400 mattresses and box springs to be recycled.  In the past this would have cost the city approximately $3,600 to transport the collected mattresses to a recycling facility where they could be dismantled.”

The goals of the program are to increase recycling opportunities and decrease the impacts of illegal dumping, and Simmons notes that the city collections crew has seen a decrease in illegal dumping of mattresses since the program began.

California law also requires retailers that are delivering new mattresses to offer consumers the option to have a used mattress picked up at the time of delivery, at no additional cost. (However, mattresses bought from online companies are not subject to this provision, and retailers can refuse to take back a used mattress if it poses a health or safety risk.)

The city of Santa Cruz is accepting mattresses and box springs free of charge Monday through Saturday, 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at its Resource Recovery Facility, 605 Dimeo Lane.

In Santa Cruz County, mattresses can also be dropped off at Ben Lomond Landfill and Buena Vista Landfill in Watsonville.

In Monterey County, drop-off sites include the Monterey Regional Waste Management District in Marina and the three facilities of Salinas Valley Recycles: Sun Street Transfer Station in Salinas, Johnson Landfill in Gonzales, and Jolon Road Transfer Station in King City.

To find the facility nearest you, go to and enter your zip code.

Do you have questions or tips about sustainable living around the Central Coast? Send them to Kathryn McKenzie at Follow Kathryn McKenzie at

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