Arlington recycler makes use of the entire discarded mattress

ARLINGTON — Mattresses get stacked a dozen high in the Arlington Recycle Warehouse.

There were about 300 of them piled into the 7,500-square-foot space Wednesday, waiting to be cut up and broken down.

The nonprofit organization recycles mattresses and box springs. The goal is to keep them out of landfills, where they can take 80 or more years to decompose, said Mike Zachman, director of the warehouse and pastor of The Point Church.

To recycle the beds, workers and volunteers tear them apart and separate out the materials. They cut around the top and take that off before peeling fabric from the sides. The top padding, inner foam, fabric and other components are pulled out and later compressed into bricks weighing upward of 700 pounds. Those bricks are shipped out to companies that use them in other products. For example, the mattress padding can be ground up and turned into carpet padding, Zachman said.

They also recycle cardboard, wood, steel and plastic. Box springs go through a 14-foot-long machine that sheers the springs from the wood, crumpling the metal and sending staples flying. The wood is ground up into hog fuel and the mangled metal goes to Skagit River Steel.

Roughly 95 percent of a mattress and box spring can be recycled, Zachman said. With some sets, every part can be recycled. Some of the fabrics, especially those used on older mattresses, aren’t recycled by the warehouse.

Kapil Sharma drove up from Bellevue on Wednesday to drop off a king-sized mattress. He and his family are moving to Virginia, he said.

He found information online about the warehouse, which is on 59th Avenue NE just off Highway 531. He was searching for a place to recycle his mattress because dumping it would put unneeded waste and toxins into the earth, he said.

“I’ve seen people just throw them in the dumpster,” he said. “That’s not a good idea.”

Zachman started the recycle warehouse two years ago. He’d been wondering what happened to mattresses when they were thrown out and started reading online about mattress recycling. He saw that there weren’t a lot of places in Washington that break down mattresses. The next nearest warehouse is in Tacoma. He wanted to give people a local option.

“We’ve learned a lot in the last couple years,” he said. “It’s amazing what can happen in this space.”

Arlington Recycle Warehouse accepts mattresses and box springs that are dropped off between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday or between 8:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. Saturday. The warehouse is closed on Sundays.

“People come all the way from the (Canadian) border and all the way from South Seattle,” Zachman said.

He works with hotels and has contracted with local cities for their spring clean-up events, providing a drop-off place for old mattresses during the event.

There’s a $10 fee to drop off a mattress or box spring and it costs at least $25 per piece to have an employee come pick it up. The fees helps cover the costs of space, equipment and employee salaries. There are five employees and a handful of volunteers right now, but those numbers fluctuate depending on the work load, Zachman said. Lately they’ve been handling between 150 and 250 mattresses each week.

Mattress recycling used to be done at the Monroe Correctional Complex, but that program shut down in July 2014 amidst questions about the use of low-cost inmate labor to corner the mattress recycling market and profit major mattress sellers.

When nice mattresses show up at the warehouse, Zachman tries to work with sober living homes or other organizations who could use them. He would like to start a work training program at the warehouse for people who are readjusting to the workplace after being released from prison.

He also is looking to find homes for a few recyclable parts of mattresses that he hasn’t been able to sell to companies. Coir, which is basically sheets of coconut fiber, can be used for making hanging planters. Shoddy cloth, a thick felt-like material found in some mattresses, makes for good packing material, he said. He also has individual metal springs in assorted sizes if someone is interested in using them for crafts.

Arlington Recycle Warehouse could always use more volunteers, as well.

To volunteer, ask about dropping off a mattress or learn what recycled materials are available, call Zachman at 425-931-3670.

Kari Bray: 425-339-3439; kbray@heraldnet.com

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