The Furniture Recycling Group (TFR Group), a Lancashire-based soft furnishing recycling company specialising in bed and mattress recycling, has designed, developed and produced the world’s first automated pocket spring recycling machine.
The unique machine was created to streamline the mattress recycling process significantly, and reduce the number of mattresses sent to landfill each year.
An estimated 63,339,000 mattresses are currently in use in the UK (household and commercial), with 167,000 tonnes of mattresses sent to landfill each year in the UK.
Approximately 5.9 million end of life mattresses were disposed of in 2014, with only 16 per cent being recycled and the majority (73 per cent) sent to landfill. The remaining 11 per cent were incinerated, creating an environmental headache for local authorities.
Pocket spring based mattresses present specific challenges to recyclers, consisting of between 1,000 and 10,000 single springs each wrapped inside a textile-based polypropylene pocket.
Designed internally by the company’s own engineers, the machinery is already being used to dismantle and separate the components for pocket springs within mattresses, reducing the process from taking over half a day per full pocket spring to just 2.5 minutes.
Traditionally, the only way of recycling pocket springs was to manually separate each spring from the pocket with a knife, which is time-intensive and commercially unviable. The pockets would previously either be sent to the UK’s only scrap dealer accepting pocket springs at a large cost, where they are mixed into other scrap, or sent to landfill.
The machine has been patented, and the team is already working on other devices to help to automate the mattress recycling process, and reduce the manual labour requirement.
Polypropylene waste streams
Components are automatically separated into steel and polypropylene waste streams, leaving recyclable components to be sold on, re-used as scrap, or recycled.
Nick Oettinger RIGHT) , founder and managing director of TFR Group 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.
“Pocket springs are the most difficult components of mattresses to dismantle and recycle. There can be between 1,000 and 10,000 springs on each mattress, so it was our priority to develop this piece of machinery.
“We are working with manufacturing partners to produce more versions of the machine to be sold all over the world, speeding up pocket spring recycling for organisations in the UK and beyond.
“There is currently very little in the way of automation within the mattress recycling industry, with the majority of tasks being carried out manually. This can 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.”
Already, the new automated pocket spring recycling machine has received strong interest from countries outside of the UK, including the Netherlands and the United States. It comes as a boost to the business, which began recycling mattresses in 2010 and now has operations in Lancashire and Derbyshire, along with licensed operations in North Wales, Northern Ireland and Chester.