An estimated 55,000 mattresses and box springs are discarded each day in the US, resulting in 450 million pounds of waste annually and filling more than 100 million feet of landfill space. Spring Back Colorado, Western Disposal’s partner in mattress recycling, located in Commerce City and serving counties in the Mountains and across the Front Range, is tackling the important task of recovering these material resources while providing an additional social benefit of employment opportunities for disenfranchised individuals, including those with felony convictions and recovering addicts. Their mission of ‘Breaking down mattresses, building up lives’ is a living example of social enterprise in action.
The Spring Back Story
Some people actively search for purpose, but often as not, purpose finds them. This was the case for Christopher Conway, President of Spring Back Colorado. While serving as a volunteer at the Denver Rescue Mission he was struck by a recurring theme; for many of the disenfranchised men he was serving, lack of employment opportunities was the single biggest barrier to success in rebuilding their lives.
Years later, Conway learned about Spring Back Recycling, a pilot program created by students at Belmont University. The program tackled the problem of managing US mattress and box spring waste, while at the same time addressing the social issue of employing individuals with criminal convictions.
“When I learned about Spring Back, how they developed a sustainable, environmentally conscious business that provides a social benefit, I knew I discovered my purpose,” says Conway.
Up to 90% of the materials that comprise mattresses, box springs, futons, and adjustable beds are recyclable. Steel becomes new appliances and building materials, foam is transformed into carpet padding, and fabrics and fibers are re-used for a variety of
textile and filtering applications.
That is not to say that the process is easy or inexpensive. These items are bulky and heavy, so handling and transportation from user to recycler adds expense right out of the gate. The products must then be disassembled manually and co-joined materials such as wood and metal require special machinery to separate and bale.
It can be tedious and difficult labor, but the workforce at Spring Back is motivated by the opportunity to have meaningful work that benefits not only themselves but the environment. The company philosophy focuses on teaching workers not only the tasks involved in getting the job done but to living with intention and purpose.
And their results are significant. Since its founding in 2011, Spring Back Colorado recycled an average of more than 6,000 mattresses each month, has diverted 11 million pounds of material from the landfill and provided employment for almost 200 individuals.