Here’s what you need to know about the textile and mattress waste ban that goes into effect Nov. 1

Here's what you need to know about the textile and mattress waste ban that goes into effect Nov. 1


You can no longer throw out old mattresses and textiles. They must be donated or recycled.

Another mattress is grabbed from a pile for recycling. Cloth waste that can’t be recycle is compressed and bundled for trash at left at UTEC in Lawrence. Globe staff photo: Joanne Rathe

If you’re thinking of getting rid of your old mattress or throwing out some ripped or stained clothing, starting Tuesday, you can no longer put them in the trash.

Beginning Nov. 1, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) is expanding its waste bans to include mattresses, clothing, towels, bedding, and other textiles. This means they will need to be repurposed, reused, or recycled.

Banned items will now include bedding, clothing, curtains, fabric, footwear, towels, and similar items. Textiles containing mold, bodily fluids, insects, oil, or hazardous substances are exempt from the ban.

All sizes of mattresses are included in the ban, but notably, the mattress ban does not include mattress pads and toppers, sleeping bags, pillows, car beds, strollers, playpens, infant carriers, waterbeds, air mattresses, and mattresses from futons and sofa beds.

Why the ban is in place

According to MassDEP, Massachusetts residents and businesses dispose of approximately 230,000 tons of textiles each year. These materials account for about 5% of the waste that makes it to incinerators and landfills.

Mattresses pose a similar problem. More than 600,000 mattresses and box springs are thrown away each year in Massachusetts. And according to MassDEP, they are expensive to transport, hard to compact, take up lots of landfill space, and can damage incinerator processing equipment.

This need not be the case. MassDEP said about 85% of disposed textiles could be donated, reused, or recycled, while more than 75% of mattress components can be reused or recycled.

There are both environmental and economic benefits to recycling or donating mattresses and textiles, MassDEP said.

Massachusetts has many businesses that sort, reuse, upcycle, or convert used textiles into new products. It also has many charities and businesses that resell clothes, mattresses, and other textiles. So, MassDEP said, donating helps keep these local businesses afloat.

Keeping used textiles out of the trash is also beneficial for municipalities, businesses, and residents who can then spend less on waste disposal, MassDEP said.

Recycling fibers also saves natural resources and reduces carbon emissions by using existing materials instead of creating more, according to the Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles (SMART) Association.

What you should do with textiles

Contrary to popular belief, MassDEP said, textile donations in almost any condition are welcomed by most textile collectors. This includes items with stains, rips, missing buttons, or broken zippers.

This is because textiles are valuable, MassDEP said. Items that don’t sell in a thrift store are baled and sold to brokers who sell to overseas markets where they are repaired and resold; sold to companies that make industrial wiping cloths; or sold to fiber converters who make them into things like insulation, carpet padding, or soundproofing materials.

The only textiles that you shouldn’t donate are those which are wet, moldy, or contaminated with oil or hazardous substances, MassDEP said.

What you can donate:

Clothing: Shirts, pants, jackets, suits, hats, belts, ties, gloves, scarves, socks, underwear, purses, and backpacks

Footwear: Shoes, sandals, sneakers, cleats, boots, flip-flops, and slippers

Household textiles: Curtains, drapes, sheets, blankets, comforters, towels, tablecloths, rugs, pillows, and stuffed animals

You can find local businesses to donate textiles to by visiting the SMART Association’s website.

What to do with mattresses

Similar to textiles, mattresses can also be donated to resale businesses, if in good condition, or recycled.

According to RecyclingWorks Massachusetts, for a mattress to be recycled, it must be made of metal, textiles, wood, and/or foam, and must be dry and free of mold. Bedding items exempt from the new waste ban typically aren’t accepted by mattress recyclers.

Recycled mattresses are inspected and treated for bed bugs before being cut open and deconstructed, RecyclingWorks said. Then, its components are separated and compacted.

Finally, those materials are sent for recycling or turned into things like industrial padding or shredded wood mulch.

You can visit RecyclingWorks’s Find-a-Recycler tool to find local outlets for reuse.

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