SV grant for beds made of plastic

plastic beds

$300,000 Victorian Government grant delivered by Sustainability Victoria has enabled Swinburne University to partner with start-up Robovoid and GT Recycling to explore ways to use recycled plastics in bed bases and mattresses.

Robovoid’s Dr John Stehle says that the mix of materials present in traditional bedding makes recycling difficult, both practically and economically, so the majority of unwanted bed bases and mattresses get sent to landfill.

“In each traditional bed base, you’ve got a lot of timber and about 1000 staples. No one wants to pull out all those staples so they can use the timber again,” John says.

“And in the mattress, you’ve typically got metal springs, foam and various other materials. While the springs can be extracted and sold as scrap metal, and some foams can be used for carpet underlay, most materials have little value.”

Enter ROBOBED. We’ve all heard of beds filled with water. What about beds made of plastic?

Robovoid had already developed recycled plastic products for concrete applications. Discussions with researcher Tracey Pryor from the Australian Bedding Stewardship Council sparked the idea of producing a bed using the same materials.

“One of the reasons we’re using plastic in this project is because it’s so useful,” John says. “You can mould it into different shapes, it’s cost effective and it’s light. Our bed base is much lighter than a timber bed base.

“The springs in a traditional mattress are made from steel and normally the steel is a virgin material. So again, we are trying to replace that with a recycled product and create a more circular bed solution.”

GT Recycling’s Doug McLean agrees, saying there’s a lot of recycled plastic available.

“There’s so much of it that we need new products to be developed to use up all the recycled plastic, otherwise it just sits in warehouses or goes to landfill,” Doug says.

Swinburne University’s Dr Mostafa Nikzad says that designing for recyclability is uncommon.

“It’s certainly an approach we are adopting here, to ensure that what comes together in the end can be easily recycled when it’s time to buy a new bed.”

Six months into product development, the team is already seeing success.

Starting with the bed base, GT Recycling has supplied the recycled plastic feedstock and Robovoid has optimised the final base design to meet performance requirements.

Swinburne has undertaken rigorous testing to understand the variabilities and uncertainties that come with using recycled materials and how they can be best integrated with the Robovoid design to ensure the right prototype performance.

Producing the mattress is a different proposition. Australians have a variety of comfort preferences, with most opting for a ‘medium’ to ‘firm’ mattress.

John says a new injection moulded product is being made and the team hopes to start producing mattresses by the end of this year.

Mostafa says the support from Sustainability Victoria has been crucial to bringing the project to life.

“Broadly, this sort of activity is very important because it imparts confidence that if you marry up the right set of skills from academia and industry, it’s possible to design functional products with recycled materials.

“This project has been an important step to show that yes, you can do it.”

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Sustainability Victoria launches Buy Recycled directory

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