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ISPA battles states to push U.S. recycling law

ISPA PresidentISPA President Ryan Trainer says the association favors a national recycling program instead of a patchwork of state laws that could place unreasonable financial and logistical burdens on the bedding industry.
AVENTURA, Fla. - Like an old mattress that lives on, the mattress recycling issue has been around for a long time. Now the industry is hoping to finally make some real progress on that challenging front.
     Ryan Trainer, president of the International Sleep Products Assn., outlined steps that the bedding industry's trade association is taking to encourage more recycling and to take old, worn-out mattresses out of the bedding pipeline. His presentation at Furniture/Today's seventh Bedding Conference brought that three-day event to a successful close.
     Trainer said the mattress recycling issue has been simmering for more than two decades. Landfills, he noted, "don't like our products" and environmental groups have long been looking at the bedding industry.
     ISPA is now aiming to get in front of this issue by encouraging development of a national infrastructure for recycling used mattress components and creating a federal alternative that would preempt state "extended producer responsibility" or EPR bills that would put unreasonable financial and logistical burdens on the mattress industry, Trainer said. Since the mattress industry is a national industry, a national approach on mattress recycling makes more sense than a patchwork of various state regulations, he added.
     Connecticut's legislature considered a mattress EPR bill this year but adjourned before it became law, Trainer said. And the California Senate recently passed a mattress EPR bill, one that ISPA is "fighting hard" and hopes to defeat in the California Assembly, he said. ISPA will continue to monitor EPR activity at the state level, according to Trainer.
     He provided an overview of the recycling industry, noting that there are currently about 30 mattress recyclers in the United States, but most are small, nonprofit organizations and most use manual labor to dismantle mattresses. Most processing fees range from $5 to $50 per unit.
     There are a number of funding challenges facing the recyclers. The recycled materials have low or volatile values and the revenues the recyclers earn are often insufficient to cover the cost of collecting, dismantling, recycling and selling the materials, according to Trainer.
     ISPA's "offensive strategy" on the recycling issue is to build support for a federal recycling measure. The concept is patterned on recycling programs for auto batteries, tires, motor oil, house paint and carpet, Trainer said.
     ISPA is proposing the creation of a mattress recycling council that would set, collect and disburse a recycling fee. That fee would be clearly labeled on the consumer's invoice, and there would be no retail obligation to collect the used mattresses. There could be financial incentives for retailers and others to send used mattresses to recyclers. The council itself would decide exactly how the program would operate.
     A federal law would preempt state EPR laws and would set federal used and renovated mattress standards, Trainer said.
     The mandatory recycling fee collected on each new mattress would generate funds to offset recycling costs and would pay financial incentives to retailers that send used mattresses to recyclers, he added.
     A federal recycling program with a private sector solution would place the least financial burden on government and industry, and it would distribute financial responsibility uniformly over all mattress products and brands, according to Trainer. It would also demonstrate the industry's commitment to working to improve the environment.
     He wrapped up his presentation by issuing an invitation to industry members to join ISPA. "Now is not the time to sit on the sidelines," Trainer said. "We invite your participation."
     ISPA is planning an event at the upcoming Las Vegas Market on Tuesday, July 31, to discuss the mattress recycling issue.

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