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Bill aims to jumpstart mattress recycling in Oregon

A discarded mattress along the side of a street in Salem, Oregon. (Paul Lehman photo)

Oregonians would have an easier time figuring out what to do with their old mattresses under a bill advancing through the Legislature.

Senate Bill 1576 would create a mattress recycling program. While details of the program would be developed by the mattress industry and the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, the costs would be borne by consumers.

“If you have driven down the street lately, or through one of our beautiful scenic routes here in the state of Oregon, and seen a mattress or box spring tossed along the highways, cluttering up our natural sources or waterways, this bill makes perfect sense,” said Sen. James Manning, D-Eugene, one of the bill’s 15 co-sponsors, all Democrats.

A fee would be added to the purchase of each mattress sold in Oregon, including those purchased online. The amount of the fee would be set by the industry, with state approval. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures the fee ranges from $9 to $16 per mattress in the three states with a similar program: California, Connecticut and Rhode Island.

The Senate Committee on Energy and Environment voted Monday to move the bill to the Legislature’s budget-writing committee.

Even people who wouldn’t dream of tossing a mattress on the side of the road can have a hard time figuring out the best way to dispose of it.

“There are currently no convenient or consistent ways for people to recycle their old mattresses,” said Rosalynn Greene of the Association of Oregon Recyclers. “With a few exceptions, most go into our landfills.”

Greene said that once they are disassembled, most mattresses are about 85% recyclable. Some limited opportunities for mattress recycling already exist in Oregon, though most charge a fee.

The proposal has the support of the mattress industry. In written testimony, Marie Clark, a lobbyist for the International Sleep Association, said the industry’s recycling programs in other states have resulted in more than 9 million mattresses being recycled over the past six years.

This isn’t the first time the proposal has come before Oregon lawmakers. Another of its sponsors, Sen. Michael Dembrow, D-Portland, said he hoped the 2022 session would prove more fruitful.

“It is time to put this bill to bed,” he said.