FORT DRUM, N.Y. (June 27, 2018) -- The Fort Drum Environmental Division staff is always looking at new ways to strengthen its recycling program by implementing more "earth friendly" alternatives to disposing waste when possible. Their attention has recently turned to something that gets used almost a third of every day by most people - the mattress.

Anthony Reali, Solid Waste program manager, said that they recently found a recycling company that will accept the post's used barracks mattresses that would otherwise be sent to the landfill. The company, based in Western New York, is the first to offer a mattress recycling service in the state.

"We tested this out in late May with a trial run of 240 mattresses, and the operation was faultless," Reali said.

On June 20-21, more than 400 more mattresses were removed from barracks and made their way to the recycling facility in Tonawanda, New York.

"This year we have about a total of 2,000 mattresses being removed, so this is a good time to start this program," he said. "It's one of those turnaround years that happens every three to five years when the mattresses are replaced with new ones."

Reali said that the problem with mattresses is that they aren't as compactible as other solid wastes, and so it takes up a considerable amount of space in the landfill. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, diverting mattresses from landfills saves 28 cubic feet of space per mattress, since they are 400 percent less compactible than household trash.

"Mattresses are so spongy and bulky that you can run them over a million times with the heavy machinery at the landfill, and nothing happens," Reali said.

The Mattress Recycling Council reports that up to 80 percent of the components of a used mattress can be recycled. The Triad Recycling website cites that each mattress is disassembled and segregated into recyclable materials that can be used to create new products. The mattresses are never resold or reused as mattresses - a practice that sometimes has health consequences.

Recycling 25 percent of mattresses and box springs annually in the U.S. would conserve 103,537 tons of steel; 37,500 tons of polyurethane foam; and 55,013 tons of wood. Every ton of steel recycled saves 2,500 pounds of iron ore, 1,400 pounds of coal and 120 pounds of limestone.

Reali said that the Fort Drum Environmental Division has been working almost 10 years to come up with the right solution for mattresses. Previous efforts did not have the same impact to the diversion rate or it didn't make fiscal sense.

"The hope is that we can continue this long-term, but we're just happy for now that the mattresses aren't going into the landfill," he said. "It costs a little more, but it is worth it. When you think about it, it helps our diversion rate and we're doing the right thing. How can you say no to that?"

Reali said that this new mattress disposal process fits into the bigger waste management plan that included the transition to single stream recycling last year. Reali said that recent change has already delivered some positive results that he looks forward to sharing once the full-year data is compiled.

"Composting, single stream recycling, mattress recycling - these are all small parts of a much bigger picture," he said. "We still need improvements - there's always that need - but a lot of good is being done and I think we're making a big difference."