Liverpool council lays mattress waste to rest

mattress waste

Liverpool City Council is flipping the narrative on mattress waste, turning a nation-wide problem into a regional opportunity.

It has been the villain in numerous thriller movies, gives its name to a global shoe brand, and is now the latest weapon in landfill diversion for Liverpool City Council.

‘The Croc’, is chewing its way through more than 21,000 mattresses a year and is offering a regional solution to an expensive waste stream. It’s also spawned a circular economy initiative set to revolutionise local recycling.

“To achieve 80 per cent landfill diversion, as set out in the National Waste Policy, we need to start thinking outside the box,” says Tim Pasley, Liverpool City Council’s Resource Recovery Manager. 

“The volume of waste mattresses is a tremendous problem, but also a tremendous opportunity.”

Across Australia, about 1.8 million mattresses are thrown out every year, according to the Australian Bedding Stewardship Council. In 2023-24, mattresses were added to the Environment Minister’s product stewardship priority list. 

Historically, Liverpool City Council collected and landfilled thousands of illegally dumped mattresses annually. The practice was expensive – up to $137 for each mattress – and unsustainable with landfill in the Sydney basin expected to expire by 2032. The cost of having mattresses taken away by a private contractor for recycling was close to $800,000 a year.

Tim says that about five years ago the council decided there had to be a better way. A meeting with Andrew Douglas, who began Mattress Recycle Australia operating out of Cootamundra in New South Wales, set the council on a path to taking ownership of its mattress waste.

‘The Croc’, as it’s affectionately known by locals, is a Tana Shark industrial shredder purchased from waste management and recycling equipment distributor GCM Enviro. It’s the centrepiece of a mattress recycling operation at the council’s waste depot.

mattress waste
Tim Pasley, Liverpool City Council’s Resource Recovery Manager, with the Tana Shark which is chewing through one mattress every minute. Image: Liverpool City Council

The Tana Shark has earned a reputation for its robust design and reliability, taking on, and winning, against challenging materials. At Liverpool, the Tana Shark’s giant jaws demolish a mattress every minute, separating the steel from the mattress flocking, ready for repurposing.

“We can’t fault the Tana Shark,” Tim says.

“The council ran an exhaustive procurement process to identify what the best in the market was, focusing on the quality of the machine, durability, ease of repair and availability of parts.

“The Tana Shark gives us best bang for buck. It maximises operational efficiency and throughput of materials in a single pass.”

GCM Enviro configured the shredder specifically for mattress waste. The team provided a training package and manuals and continues to offer back-up to ensure the council is achieving the best results possible.

The Croc has been operating two days a week since commissioning in 2023. The council aims to increase to daily operations and has called for an expression of interest from neighbouring councils to use the service. There’s also been interest from bedding companies keen to provide an environmentally friendly disposal option for their beds. 

To meet the expected demand the council has purchased a second Tana Shark. A second shredder gives the council the opportunity to increase throughput; having two of the same machines requires fewer spare parts to be stocked, there’s no need for extra training and service intervals can be timed so there’s little to no downtime. 

Tim says, ‘the Croc’ is proof of concept for a wider initiative – establishing a circular economy centre that will include a micro factory to transform the mattress waste into tiles. The council has purchased land next to its waste facility that will be developed over the next four years and could include up to four Tana Sharks. Presently the council is recovering 44 per cent of the metal waste from mattresses, it’s aiming for 99 per cent recovery of all waste when the micro factory is established.

“When we started on this journey, we wanted to solve the problem for our region,” Tim says. “We saw a gap in the market and thought, ‘who is better positioned to do this than us’?

“We were ripe for change and wanted to see things done better. That meant being brave and trying out new things.

“We’re already saving a couple of thousand dollars a year, now we’re really trying to bring circular practices to the fore.” 

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