In the final days of the recently ended 2013 session, the R.I. General Assembly passed legislation, which Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee subsequently signed, that will put our state on the road toward a statewide mattress recycling program endorsed by industry, supported by environmental advocates and welcomed by municipalities.
Establishing a statewide mattress program is not just good for the environment; it’s also good for consumers and businesses. By having producers establish a system for managing used mattresses with limited but appropriate government oversight, the legislation creates a system whereby Rhode Island’s discarded mattresses can be recycled while keeping costs low for consumers, government and the industry.
The law and resulting program are prime examples of collaboration between lawmakers, industry and environmental advocates in order to achieve a desired goal that all can agree upon. By promoting recycling, the program will also assist cities and towns currently facing difficult financial decisions. With the city of Providence spending more than $230,000 last year on the collection and transportation of discarded mattresses, the new program will save cities financial resources and allow limited labor hours to be spent on other urgent needs.
Low levels of economic growth and high municipal deficits have forced many cities and towns to abandon mattress curbside pick-up and citizen drop-off disposal programs, causing mattresses to linger on city sidewalks and encouraging individuals to illegally dump them in vacant lots, on riverbanks or in local forests.
When consumers are asked to pay disposal fees by their city or a private collection company, many unfortunately will choose to dump rather than pay. The ripple effects of these choices include unsightly street corners, blighted landscapes and increased municipal costs associated with managing a potential public health problem.
By working with the industry and other interested parties, the General Assembly, the governor and relevant state agencies have devised a legislative solution to enhance the recycling of used goods and address a municipal need. In addition, the program will create new jobs to collect, transport and recycle discarded mattresses.
With this program in place, used mattresses will be a consistent and predictable source of raw materials that can be used to make a number of new products. Your old mattress components may be re-manufactured as a component in your next home, office or car rather than taking up space in the landfill; or worse yet, becoming an eyesore along or roads and highways.
It is rare to find such a successful legislative initiative that promotes the interests of businesses, environmental advocates and municipalities alike. We’re proud to say that this law does so, and has the potential for great future success. •
Jamie Rhodes is the Rhode Island director for Clean Water Action. Ryan Trainer is the president of the International Sleep Products Association.