A new program in Port Alberni will allow residents to recycle their old and unused mattresses, while also providing work experience in the community.
Recycle Matters is a job creation partnership through INEO Employment Services, which combines skill development and employment experience with a mattress recycling service. Between 90-95 percent of the mattress materials are recycled, freeing up “valuable space” in the Alberni Valley Landfill, says INEO owner and operator Terry Deakin.
Deakin said the idea for Recycle Matters came about when she started thinking about social enterprise ideas, where INEO could employ and train people who need the extra help and support.
“Mattress recycling came up, and I thought there’s nothing north of Victoria to do mattress recycling,” she said.
Deakin talked to both the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District and the landfill, then wrote a proposal for a job creation partnership through the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction, and got some funding to try a pilot project.
The pilot project started in February of this year, and began with renovations of the INEO offices on Second Avenue to set up a mattress recycling facility. The facility started receiving its first mattresses in April.
Now, Deakin has received funding from the Women Entrepreneurship Strategy through the federal government, which will allow INEO to transition the pilot project to a social enterprise.
“So then we can focus on employment and training for our community members who are most at risk of being marginalized and living in poverty,” she said.
INEO hopes to start collecting, processing and dismantling upwards of about 3,000 mattresses per year from the local landfill—and maybe even more, if service can be expanded.
Stephen Oosthuyzen, who works in the facility, says that the oldest mattress received so far was manufactured in 1969.
“It was quite exciting,” he said. “We remember putting the mattress down and we got on and just jumped on the springs that were 1969 springs.”
The facility has end markets for most of the mattress parts. The metal springs are sent to Alberni Foundry, while the foam is shipped off the Island and the felt is repurposed into underlay. The textiles are sent to a company that makes aggregates for cement.
“We’ve found all of the markets that we can,” said Oosthuyzen. “Only about five percent goes back into the landfill that we can’t find markets for or we can’t use.
“It’s something we can do to change the world, one mattress at a time, and one individual at a time,” he added.
At the facility’s grand opening on Wednesday, May 15, ACRD manager of operations Jenny Brunn explained that mattresses are “incredibly difficult” to compact in the landfill, as springs can jump out and get wired in the equipment.
“In local government, we often are the ones driving the initiatives,” she said. “It is so wonderful to see someone from the community doing this. Perhaps there’s more opportunity to get more things out of the landfill, because we would love to do that.”
City of Port Alberni Mayor Sharie Minions added that she is “really proud” to see the initiative happening in Port Alberni.
“We have so much value in the people in our community who are building things like this from the ground up, and that really often gets overlooked,” she said.
Mattresses can be dropped off at 3169 Second Ave. for a $15 fee, or at the Alberni Valley Landfill for $20. Deakin also said that INEO is eventually hoping to provide a pick-up service for mattresses.