Tuesday, July 23, 2013

State's Used Mattress Problem is Nothing to Take Lying Down

By: Eric Slagle

Recycling in California has come a long way from hand-me-down clothes from our cousins or putting water bottles into the green bin. Californians now embrace the concept of recycling as it has become a way of life across our entire state.


Industries across every sector of the economy from beverage cans to construction debris have refined their processes and infrastructure to reduce waste and increase recycling wherever possible. Californians consumers, business leaders and elected officials alike are proud of their efforts to make our world more sustainable through recycling. But we can do more.


I have been in the business of making quality mattress for more than 25 years in Bakersfield. We are a family owned and operated business with deep ties to our community. And that is why we understand we must also be engaged in the process of what happens to our mattresses once they have served their intended purpose. At the end of their life cycle, millions of used mattresses are discarded each year across the United States, ending up in landfills where they can take up 23 cubic feet of space each. Mattresses both place a tremendous strain on our landfills and contribute to community blight when they are illegally dumped in our neighborhoods or along our highways.


Which is why Bakersfield residents should support SB 254, authored by Loni Hancock, D-Oakland, and Lou Correa, D-Santa Ana. SB 254 strikes a balance that incentivizes Californians to recycle used mattresses, eases the burden on our landfills and communities, and creates new jobs and business opportunities without harming valuable California employers already in business in the state.


In fact, in Kern County (and its 11 cities) we are fortunate to have a Recycling Market Development Zone. This is a state designation by CalRecycle to foster end use markets for recyclable materials. SB 254 and our RMDZ program will complement each other by improving the value of used mattress materials, which will make mattress recycling more efficient. Some of the specifics of SB 254 include making used mattress recycling safer and better. It creates a nonprofit mattress recycling organization whose duty will be to plan, implement and administer a state system to collect discarded used mattresses, dismantle them and recycle their materials for use in new products. The organization will fund the system by collecting a nominal fee at retail on the sale of new mattresses and box springs. Many states follow a similar approach for recycling other consumer products, including tires, batteries, motor oil, electronics, paint and carpet.


Another critical component of SB 254 is that it will address the problem of illegal mattress dumping. SB 254 creates a financial incentive to encourage parties (including retailers that pick up used mattresses from consumers, municipal transfer stations, and groups that pick up illegally dumped mattresses) to send used mattresses to mattress recyclers. The organization's activities will be transparent, open to public input and subject to annual performance and financial audits that will be published on its website. Further, the state's oversight authority will confirm whether the organization has met its statutory obligations.


Sponsored by the International Sleep Products Association and Californians Against Waste, SB 254 enjoys a broad range of support from groups such as retailers, cities and counties, local elected officials and waste management organizations.


The need for SB 254 is strengthened by a 2012 case study by University of California at Santa Barbara researchers that found that 4.6 million mattresses and box springs are sold annually in California and 4.2 million mattresses/box springs reach the end of their life span annually. The study showed that 85 percent of the units can be recycled and an estimated 1,000 jobs can be generated annually in mattress recycling.


The Assembly's Committee on Natural Resources will hold a hearing on the bill on Aug. 12. I have confidence in the authors and sponsors of SB 254 that they will continue to work on SB 254 and put into place a program with a solid foundation that is realistic and achievable. SB 254 is not only about good environmental policy. It's also about good business.

Eric Slagle of Bakersfield is president of Slagle's Mattress Factory Inc.

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