Proposed law aims to make it easier to dispose of mattresses

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NAUGATUCK — The Board of Mayor and Burgesses threw its support behind proposed state legislation that would require manufacturers to pay for the disposal of unwanted mattresses.

The board voted to support the law at its meeting Tuesday night, with Burgesses Ron San Angelo and Patrick Scully offering the only opposing votes.

The costly and improper disposal of mattresses is a problem throughout Connecticut, including in the borough, according to Sheila Baummer, Naugatuck’s recycling and solid waste coordinator.

According to a fact sheet provided by supporters of the bill, 350,000 to 450,000 mattresses are disposed of in Connecticut annually.

Baummer said the borough paid $7,645 to haul away about 570 mattresses from the Naugatuck Recycling Center during the last fiscal year.

Bulk recycling fees ranging from $5 to $15, depending on the size of the mattress, covered most of the borough’s cost, Baummer said. But, she said private haulers charge as much as $25 per mattress.

Baummer said landfills don’t want mattresses because they are hard to process and tend to “float” to the top. Similarly, incinerators can’t take mattresses because the springs get tangled up in the shredding equipment. Even big burn centers can’t burn many mattresses, Baummer said.

In addition to the cost of hauling away mattresses, Baummer said many people who can’t afford the fee or don’t know what to do with their mattresses just end up leaving them on the curb when they move out. She said this is a bigger problem in cities, but happens in Naugatuck as well.

“It’s a problem on a whole lot of levels,” Baummer said.

The legislation, which is spearheaded by the city of Hartford and the Connecticut Product Stewardship Council, would be similar to an electronics recycling program that went into effect a few years ago and an extended producer responsibility (EPR) program for paint that is scheduled to start in 2013.

Baummer said the borough spent $1,552 recycling electronics in the 2009-10 fiscal year. A few times a year, the borough held one-day events for residents to recycle used electronics free of charge, but Baummer said that system was inconvenient for many residents. During those one-day events, residents would bring in old TVs and other electronics they’d been holding on to for years, Baummer said. Now that electronics manufacturers finance the recycling of their products, the borough can collect them at the recycling center year-round, free of charge.

In conjunction with the bill, two businesses are opening up in Connecticut to deconstruct mattresses, recycling as much of the component materials as possible, Baummer said.

“The businesses opening would give the areas of Connecticut and surrounding states … a location to bring mattresses to a place where they aren’t going to a landfill or being burned,” Baummer said.

Baummer said the key to the legislation would be convenience for consumers. If passed, Baummer said the law would make it easier and cheaper to dispose of used mattresses and thereby deter illegal dumping.

“This kind of bill would give residents more options,” Baummer said.

She also said the bill would also help reduce the illegal sale of used mattresses that have not been property inspected and cleansed. She said some companies take used mattresses, which may be infested with bedbugs or other pests, and try to sell them as new.

San Angelo and Scully voted against supporting the bill because they said the extra cost to manufacturers would be passed along to consumers in upfront costs instead of at the end of the products life. Scully said the law would be unnecessary if recycling companies set up shop in Connecticut even without a law on the issue.