Mattresses added to ministerial hit list

Mattresses, long the bane of councils charged with removing discarded bedding from local streets, have been added to a ministerial hit list of products that need to reduce their environmental impact.

Vernon Fair

Environment minister Tanya Pilbersek added the mattress industry to the Minister’s Product Stewardship Priority List on Tuesday, along with tyre makers and importers, and plastics in healthcare products.

Being listed forces the industries concerned to take responsibility for the environmental impact of their products via stewardship program.

“The priority list makes our intentions clear – if industry does not act, the government will,” Ms Plibersek told reporters, adding that the government is prepared to implement regulatory measures.

The Australian Bedding Stewardship Council (ABSC), which includes manufacturers, retailers, wholesalers and their supply chains, said it welcomed the minister’s announcement.

ABSC chief executive officer Vernon Fair said the mattress industry’s inclusion on the priority list was a call to action for the sector.

“Industry can really have a significant impact and role in ensuring the products that we provide to our customers do not come at the cost of adverse environmental impacts and impost on local councils,” he said.

“Commercial innovations with economies of scale will help us make the biggest impact in fixing this problem.

“Providing meaningful ongoing funding for this kind of research is going to require the support of the entire industry and their willingness to make more sustainable choices in product design and material selection.

“In the meantime, adding mattresses to the Minister’s Priority List is an important step and we welcome it.”

1.8 million mattresses dumped a year

Approximately 1.8 million mattresses are discarded in Australia each year. According to the ABSC, they would stretch from Hobart to Darwin if placed end to end.

An estimated 100,000 of those mattresses are illegally dumped, creating an environmental and ratepayer burden.

Around 41 per cent of old mattresses – about 22,000 tonnes a year – end up in landfill, the ABSC says. Although 59 per cent are collected for recycling, up to 64 per cent of the overall weight still goes to landfill because the recovered material is either impossible to recycle or of no value to recyclers.

The ABSC said it would  will discuss the implications of the mattress industry being placed on the Ministers’ Priority List with members on November 17.

“We will also re-engage with the broader bedding industry who are yet to indicate interest in a voluntary, industry-led stewardship approach,” Mr Fair said.

The ABSC currently administers the limited Recycle My Mattress program designed to increase resource recovery and divert waste from landfill for mattresses and bedding products. 

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