A circular partnership to tackle the mattress waste problem

In Europe, we let 35 million mattresses go to waste every year.

The European Bedding Industries’ Association estimates that more than 35 million mattresses are disposed of each year in Europe alone, the majority of which are incinerated. It’s why we have teamed up with Auping to combine know-how and resources to fulfil the goal of creating a fully circular mattress, designed to use again.

When it comes to mattress recycling there’s one major challenge: the complexity of separating the different materials used to build and hold a mattress’ comfort and support layers.

This challenge was top of mind for Royal Auping and Niaga when they teamed up in 2018. Both Niaga® and Auping are committed to develop and promote the concept of building a circular economy, where materials are reused repeatedly, rather than being discarded or destroyed. Their shared goal is to recapture mattress waste as a resource, for processing into new bedding components or recycled into new raw material for other uses at the same quality level.

Solving the challenge

Before joining forces with Niaga®, Auping had been working on creating a circular mattress for several years. Pim Jansen, manager of international business development for Auping: “Niaga®’s click-unclick adhesive provided the missing link for us in solving the biggest challenge we had faced: how to bind layers together while still allowing for easy detachment and separation of materials after use.”

According to Ward Mosmuller, director of partnerships and alliances for Niaga®: “In most mattresses, the components are glued together, making it difficult to separate the different materials after use. With the Niaga® reversible adhesive, every component can be separated independently and recycled.”

The Niaga® adhesive is a nontoxic, reversible adhesive that binds all the elements of a product together safely and securely. After use, it can be reheated to decouple the parts cleanly, making the materials recyclable and suitable for use in future products.

A true collaboration – also across the supply chain

Niaga® was charged with adapting its click-unclick adhesive – previously only used for carpets – to mattresses, while Auping focused on designing and efficiently producing a new type of sleeping surface using mono-material polyester in place of polyurethane foam.

The collaboration was guided by Niaga®’s three core product design principles:

  • Keep it simple, using the lowest possible diversity of ingredients
  • Use only clean, easily recyclable materials
  • Use reversible connections, which allow for easy disconnection at the end of each use phase.

“We worked closely with key suppliers to come up with replacements for the conventional polyurethane foams we’d been using,” Jansen says. “Our new circular bed designs feature polyester components, all of which can be easily identified, separated and recycled at the end of a mattress’ lifecycle.”

“The success of a new venture like this requires a high level of cooperation across the entire value chain,” Jansen says. “From suppliers to retailers, as well as recyclers, everyone needs to do what they can, if we’re to achieve a fully circular product life.”

Prize-winning circular mattress

Auping introduced its first circular mattress, Evolve, to the market in 2020. Made with just steel and various formulations of polyester – no foam – and the Niaga® click-unclick adhesive – no glues – the mattress was honored with a Red Dot Award during the year of its launch.

Based on this success, Auping aims to make its entire product range, including other items such as bed frames, circular by 2030 at the latest.

The Product Passport

Each fully circular model carries a Niaga® tag that informs the buyer that the product is designed to be used again. The tag includes a scannable QR code leading to additional information, including a Product Passport: a list of materials, as well as instructions for how to return the mattress at end-of-use.

“The tag tells the consumer, and later in the process the recycler, exactly what’s in the mattress,” says Mosmuller. Going forward, both Niaga® and Auping will be looking for new partners to join the circularity bandwagon. Niaga® is currently licensing its click-unclick adhesive for use by six other bed makers in Europe.

According to Mosmuller, “Over time, producing these types of mattresses will become cheaper and faster, and the same will happen on the recycling side as more facilities come on stream. Also, the lessons we learn in other applications of the Niaga® adhesive and technology – carpets and furniture panels – will contribute to the transition to a circular economy.”

This article is based on an article that appeared in the September 2022 issue of BedTimes Magazine.

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