Keep your well-worn mattress, bedding, and towels out of landfills by giving them a new life. Here’s how.
While mattresses, bedding, and bath towels made from certified organic, high-quality materials stand up to everyday wear and tear better than their synthetic counterparts, they eventually need to be replaced. When they do, think twice before tossing them in the trash.
Discarded mattresses, in particular, cause major issues for landfills — and negatively affect the environment. Synthetic foams and polyurethane commonly used in mattress construction often contain toxic chemicals like formaldehyde and benzene. As mattresses break down, those toxins leech into the soil and end up in our air and waterways where they negatively affect humans and wildlife.
And in the U.S., consumers throw away 18.2 million mattresses per year, resulting in approximately 3.4 million metric tons of carbon emissions, yet the country only has 56 facilities equipped to recycle them.
Fret not — we’ve broken down the sustainable ways to dispose of these household essentials. Which route you take depends on how worn the items are when you part with them. Here’s our guide to donating, recycling, or upcycling your mattress, bedding, and bath towels.
Read more: Signs It’s Time to Replace Your Mattress
Where to Donate or Recycle Your Mattress
Whether you’re returning a mattress or upgrading to a new one, more companies than ever now pick up returns or old mattresses so they can be recycled or donated. Before buying a new bed, do your research to ensure the company you’re purchasing from has policies in place to donate or responsibly recycle it if you decide it’s not the right fit.
At Avocado, for example, we donate more than 90 percent of our mattress returns and 100 percent of our pillow and mattress topper and protector returns to our nationwide network of more than 1,000 nonprofit partners — including local women’s shelters, rehabilitation centers, refugee centers, and centers for those with disabilities.
If the mattress you’re getting rid of is well-worn, you still have options. However, in most cases, in order for a charity to accept a used mattress, it must be stain-free, in good condition, and without holes or tears. Here are a few places that accept mattress donations.
- The Salvation Army: contact your local location to schedule a pickup.
- DonationTown: While this organization doesn’t accept mattress donations, it helps connect you with charitable organizations in your area that do.
- Furniture Bank: Similar to DonationTown, this organization provides a directory of furniture banks across North America that accept mattress donations.
- Local Recycling Center: Check with your local recycling center to see if they accept bed donations or consult Bye Bye Mattress to find a location nearby. Just be aware that some recycling centers will charge a small fee.
- City Mattress Recycling Day: Most major cities have a designated day each year where they will pick up special items like mattresses for recycling for no fee.
- Homeless Shelters: Many homeless shelters will accept mattresses that are in good condition. Reach out to those in your community to find out who has a need.
Read more: How to Clean a Mattress Naturally
Where to Donate and Recycle Bedding and Towels
Just like with mattresses, if you’re planning to donate your bedding or towels, make sure they are clean and in decent condition, without holes or major stains. For linens that are a little worse for wear, there are plenty of options to recycle them, too. Here are a few places to start.
Homeless Shelters: Fresh towels and bedding are a critical need for homeless shelters. Contact your local location to coordinate a donation.
Animal Shelters: Similarly, animal shelters go through tons of towels and sheets a week, so if your linens are in less than superb shape, consider donating to furry friends in need.
The Salvation Army: Blankets, bedspreads, sheets, and towels are all accepted by area thrift locations of The Salvation Army.
American Red Cross: This nonprofit requires you to donate items through GreenDrop®, a company that sells donated items at thrift stores and diverts the funds to the Red Cross. Find a location near you, pack your items into a cardboard box, and schedule a drop-off.
TerraCycle: This company makes it easy to recycle items that normally get sent to landfills — including bedding and towels. The best way to get your linens to TerraCycle is to order a Zero Waste Box®, pack it, and send it back to them so they can sort and determine the best solution for these hard-to-recycle items.
How to Upcycle Bedding and Towels
Upcycling is a fun and useful way to give the linens you love a second life without having to part with them. Use your imagination, get creative, or invite some friends over for an upcycling party. Here are a few ideas for inspiration.
- Repurpose sheets into a large beach or pool blanket for spreading out and lounging.
- Transform worn tea or hand towels into reusable face wipes.
- Create table runners from your sheets by cutting them to your desired length and shape and sewing a few layers together to make them thicker.
- Make reusable cleaning wipes with your old towels.
- Use your bedding as drop cloths for art or home projects that could get the floor messy.
- Add a few knots to an old dish rag to create a new dog toy for Fido.
- Convert your fitted bed sheet into an ironing board cover.
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