Mattress trade group shuns state-based EPR
Mattress trade group shuns state-based EPR
By Jake Thomas, Resource Recycling
The International Sleep Products Association (ISPA) doesn't want states to begin passing stewardship laws aimed at mattress recovery and recycling. The trade group, which represents mattress manufacturers, is so opposed to these proposals that it's seeking to convince Congress to pass a national stewardship law for its products that would preempt state laws. And that idea has its detractors.
Mattresses can be a big headache to dispose of. They're bulky, take up space in landfills, are regularly illegally dumped, can soak up muck and grime and can be a refuge for bed bugs. And, as they can be expensive for municipalities to handle, many find that they are not economically viable to recycle.
Across the country, there have been efforts by state and local governments to increase recycling of mattresses and box springs. And some industry groups have also shown more interest in recycling used mattresses, including the ISPA.
According to Christopher Hudgins, vice president for government relations and policy at the ISPA, his organization has been working for the last year and a half on federal stewardship legislation. Although the ISPA has no "hard language" on their proposal that has been made public, he says it would function much like other stewardship schemes: consumers would pay a fee that would fund a stewardship "council" tasked with collecting and recycling used mattresses. The council would be overseen by the U.S. Department of Commerce and would reimburse the agency for that oversight, he says.
Hudgins says that currently California, Connecticut and Rhode Island are likely to take up legislation that would establish state-based stewardship programs for mattresses, and the ISPA prefers a national approach. He says the ISPA is particularly concerned about potential legislation in Rhode Island. Last year, lawmakers in that state considered a bill Hudgins says would have been overly burdensome to the mattress industry.
"Our belief is that a federal solution is the best approach for the industry and customers as well," Hudgins says. "Our worry is we'll have 50 different state laws, which is more costly than having a national law."
Hudgins doesn't expect a federal law to be passed any time soon, but is actively in conversation with members of Congress on the issue.
"I think there has been a good response," he says of his interactions with lawmakers. "Nobody's saying this doesn't make any sense."
But that good response isn't shared by some groups generally supportive of product stewardship.
Mark Murray, the executive director of Californians Against Waste, said in an email exchange with Resource Recycling that the California State Legislature was on the cusp of passing a mattress stewardship law last year, but the final bill stalled in the state Senate. He wrote that CAW is planning on working with state Senator Loni Hancock (D-Oakland) to introduce legislation to require manufacturers to recycle 75 percent of their end-of-life mattresses.
"While we would be supportive of a federal mattress recycling policy, the proposal by the International Sleep Products Association is far too weak and vague to address the multi-million dollar problem of mattress dumping," he wrote in an email. "That said, there would appear to be zero chance that Congress will even introduce — let alone pass — a federal mattress recycling policy. In my 25 years of working on solid waste and recycling policy, the federal government has never enacted a recycling policy on any product or sector. Not on e-waste. Not on beverage containers. Not on anything."
According to Murray, CAW has been in contact with the ISPA on how to craft a mattress recycling policy that both could support. He says they disagree on who should pay for the program, with the ISPA advocating a point-of-sale fee and CAW wanting manufacturers to shoulder this burden. He says that the ISPA doesn't want recycling goals, while CAW does.
"It's a smoke screen," says Scott Cassel, the CEO and founder of the Product Stewardship Institute, of the ISPA's proposal. "What the ISPA is seeking is not viable."
In addition to being very difficult to pass at the federal level, Cassel says that the ISPA proposal isn't adequately funded and doesn't require enough from the industry.
In response to the ISPA's contention that a national mattress stewardship law would be more manageable than a 50-state patchwork, Cassel says the paint industry has advanced a viable solution toward this problem by creating PaintCare, a nonprofit stewardship organization, while successfully pushing for laws in four states modeled after each other.
Cassel also says rolling out legislation state-by-state allows plans to be tested and lessons learned from them.
Hudgins responds to these criticisms by arguing that any stewardship program should leave out a recycling goal at least until a baseline can be established. He also defended the consumer fee, saying there should be shared responsibility for stewardship. Additionally, he says the PaintCare model wouldn't apply to mattresses because they are different products and there are different challenges in collecting, transporting and recycling each.
"We tend to get painted by [CAW] and others as obstructionists that don't want to accomplish anything, and that's not the case," he adds.
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