How Biodegradable are Green Mattresses?
As a large household product, mattresses take up a good amount of space in homes and, as it turns out, in landfills. Mattress manufacturers continue to develop more green mattress options due to consumer pressure about environmental concerns. While there are more green mattresses available today than ever before, you’re probably wondering what are your green mattress options? And, how biodegradable are they?
What Makes a Mattress “Green”?
Labels like “green”, “organic”, and “all-natural” can be confusing and sometimes misleading. The mattress industry doesn’t have any established standards as to what these terms mean. For example, a label of “organic” could mean the cotton used to make the mattress cover was organically grown and sustainably harvested. However, it may not apply to the rest of the comfort and support layers, which make up most of the mattress.
When you see eco-friendly labels on a mattress, there are certain materials you can look for that indicate how sustainable and biodegradable the mattress is, such as:
Natural Latex: Natural latex is made from the sap of the rubber tree. It has to go through one of two manufacturing processes to be made into a latex foam that makes a comfortable, durable mattress.
Plant-Based Polyfoam and Memory Foam: These foams are made using plant-based oils rather than chemicals. While foams are not very biodegradable, a plant-based foam emits fewer harmful emissions.
Organic Fibers: Mattress covers made from organic cotton and wool have a smaller carbon footprint and better biodegradability.
Fire Socks: Mattresses have to meet strict flammability standards. Manufacturers that use fire socks made of cotton, wool, thistle, or Kevlar are far more eco-friendly than those that use chemical flame retardants. (Kevlar is not a natural material but it isn’t treated by any chemicals during manufacturing.)
Green Options and Their Biodegradability
Here’s the hard truth – there aren’t any 100 percent organic, biodegradable mattresses on the market today. However, you’ve got some options that are pretty close.
All-Natural Latex Mattresses
All-natural latex mattresses are the most biodegradable options available. While they’re not as biodegradable as something like fruits or vegetables, they do break down over a long period of time, leaving behind a milky white film. It’s also important to understand that even the most biodegradable mattresses, which are made of 95 percent natural latex, include a small percentage of synthetic latex, which is derived from petrochemicals. An all-natural latex mattress may contain anywhere from 30 to 95 percent natural latex, depending on the manufacturer in the model.
Other Mattress Options
Latex mattresses are some of the most expensive mattresses, which doesn’t work for every budget. There are other options. Some hybrid mattresses combined innerspring technology with latex foam, increasing their biodegradability and reducing environmental impact. Innerspring models can be made with some organic materials and through eco-friendly processes. If you love the feel of a foam mattress, look for one made with plant-based foams. They aren’t biodegradable but they are more eco-friendly.
While not all green mattresses are biodegradable, there are models available that won’t clog landfills for generations. Armed with the right information, you can make an informed decision about your mattress.