The Furniture Recycling Group (TFR Group) claims to have designed, developed and produced the world’s first automated pocket spring recycling machine.
Designed internally by the Lancashire company’s engineers, the machinery dismantles and separates the components for pocket springs within mattresses, reducing the process from taking more than half a day per full pocket spring to two and a half minutes.
Pocket spring-based mattresses present specific challenges to recyclers because they consist of between 1,000 and 10,000 single springs, each wrapped inside a textile-based polypropylene pocket.
Traditionally, the only way of recycling them was to manually separate each spring from the pocket with a knife, which is time-consuming and commercially unviable.
Rather than being recycled, the pockets would have been either sent to the UK’s only scrap dealer that accepts pocket springs, at a large cost, where they are mixed into other scrap or, due to the excessive cost of scrapping the springs, sent to landfill.
Despite the increasing cost of sending waste to landfill as a deterrent, it remains a cheaper option than recycling.
Approximately 5.9 million end-of-life mattresses are disposed of each year, according to latest figures, with 73% (167,000 tonnes) sent to landfill and only 16% recycled.
TFR Group’s machine automatically separates the steel and polypropylene waste streams, leaving recyclable components that have a value and can be sold on, used as scrap or recycled.
The polypropylene is one of 19 textile fibres that TFR Group segregates from a mattress for end products, such as mattress pads, automotive felt and carpet underlay.
Founder and managing director Nick Oettinger said: “As far as we know, we are the first company in the world to design and create a machine to automate pocket spring recycling.
“There is currently very little in the way of automation within the mattress recycling industry, with the majority of tasks being carried out manually, which can often be time consuming, a drain on labour costs and require rigorous training.
“This is the first in a series of machines that will speed up mattress recycling, and we also have designs for additional machinery to help bring automation to the mattress recycling process.”
The organisation began recycling mattresses in 2010 and now has operations in Lancashire, Derbyshire, Chester, Wales and Northern Ireland.