More than 33,000 mattresses - the equivalent height of almost 20 Empire State buildings if stacked on top of each other - were illegally dumped across England between 2018 and 2019, the Local Government Association reveals today.
The LGA is calling for mattress manufacturers to be forced to recycle their own products and offer take-back services to stop them being illegally fly-tipped and reduce cost pressures on council recycling and waste disposal centres.
LGA analysis of latest industry figures also shows that annual UK mattress sales are outstripping the number recycled by more than five-fold, with 7.26 million sold as replacements compared to 1.36 million recycled.
The lack of a comprehensive take-back and recycling scheme is leaving councils to pick up the slack.
Mattresses, which need specialist treatment due to their bulky nature and mix of metal and fabric components, are fuelling cost pressures on waste and recycling centres.
With landfill tax increasing alongside landfill gate fees - which are expected to rise further as available landfill capacity reduces – some councils have had to introduce charges for non-household waste to help keep waste and recycling centres open.
Councils are reducing waste sent to landfill and send more mattresses for recycling than commercial organisations. But mattresses - which are free for householders to dispose of at council-run waste and recycling centres - still made up 13 per cent of waste illegally dumped in England between 2013 and 2018.
The increase in choices of bedding and people now being advised to replace mattresses after eight years, rather than 12, is also thought to be fuelling sales and creating more mattresses in circulation - and a greater need to recycle them to reduce landfill.
Dumped mattresses are also susceptible to arson attacks.
The LGA, which represents councils in England and Wales, wants manufacturers to be forced to recycle their mattresses and offer take-back services, which will enable people to return them instead of throwing them away. This would help to reduce fly-tipping which has soared by 50 per cent in the past six years and costs councils in England £58 million a year to clear up.
The LGA also wants to work with the Government on reviewing sentencing guidelines for fly-tipping, so offenders are given bigger fines for more serious offences, and to ensure councils have the funding needed to investigate incidents.
LGA Environment spokesman Cllr David Renard said:
“Dumped mattresses made up a quarter of all fly-tipping incidents in some areas in the past five years.
“Unwanted mattresses are fuelling landfill costs which continue to rise, putting pressure on waste and recycling centres which councils are working hard to keep open.
“Mattresses are bulky and hard to throw away, but are generally recyclable. Manufacturers need to take responsibility for the life-cycle of their mattresses and help councils and consumers dispose of them responsibly.
“Alongside being forced to offer take-back services and recycle mattresses as part of a circular economy, manufacturers need to be made to introduce mandatory take-back schemes to help reduce mattresses being dumped illegally and contributing to a fly-tipping bill of nearly £60 million a year to taxpayers in England.
“Fly-tipping is an illegal and inexcusable blight on society. Offenders need to be given bigger fines and councils need adequate funding to investigate incidents.
Walsall Council operates a reward scheme “Walsall’s Most Wanted”. They offer a reward of £500 for information about identification of fly-tippers who they have not been able to identify using other tools. The reward is payable on successful conviction. In February 2020 such an appeal was put out for a person captured fly-tipping a mattress on covert CCTV cameras. This led to a name being put forward and the offender admitting the incident as a result. The reward initiative is one of several measures introduced by the council to tackle fly-tipping which costs the local authority approximately £500,000 a year to clean up.
A man was given a £300 fixed penalty notice by East Riding of Yorkshire Council after being caught dumping a mattress in an alleyway in Goole. The council launched a crackdown on fly-tipping after several mattresses were found dumped in alleys.
Of 646,039 fly-tipping incidents reported between 2013 and 2018, mattresses made up 13 per cent of the waste illegally dumped
Based on an average mattress depth of 10 inches, 33,000 mattresses is 8,382 metres high if stacked on top of one another. The Empire State Building is 443 metres high, so 33,000 mattresses is the equivalent height of 19 Empire State buildings.
UK mattress sales are outstripping the number recycled by more than five-fold and councils send more mattresses for recycling than commercial enterprises and the service sector
Fly-tipping incidents in England have soared by 50 per cent, from 714,637 incidents in 2012/13 to 1,072,431 incidents in 2018/19. Fly-tipping incidents have increased by 8 per cent in the past year, from 997,553 in 2017/18.