Most people don’t think much about their mattress.
Every year, more than 350,000 mattresses are discarded in Connecticut, costing more than $1.3 million for cities and towns for disposal. In order to solve that problem, the state House of Representatives voted Thursday for a first-in-the nation move to create a comprehensive mattress recycling program.
After squabbling for two hours that evenually ended later with a bipartisan compromise, the bill passed overwhelmingly by 117 to 21 with 12 members absent. Two Democrats voted against the measure, joining 19 Republicans.
The bill now goes to the state Senate, which will not be in session until next Wednesday.
The state legislature in California is also debating a first-in-the nation recycling fee of $25 for mattresses, but the bill has not yet passed there.
“Mattresses can damage trash-to-energy plants,” said Rep. Linda Gentile, an Ansonia Democrat who serves as the co-chairwoman of the legislature’s environment committee. ”They’re expensive because they have to be shipped to landfills. … The materials that are recycled are foam, metal, cotton, and wood.”
The mattress recycling program would be “much like we have a paint stewardship program and electronics” recycling, Gentile said Thursday on the House floor. The disposal fee of $8 to $12 per mattress would be paid by the consumer at the point of purchase. The fee would cover the cost of operating the program.
Republicans raised questions about how the bill would impact the costs of the huge purchasers of mattresses, including hospitals, nursing homes, universities, and prisons.
State Rep. Whit Betts, a Bristol Republican, said the bill would add to the proposed state budget cuts to the hospitals and “continue to pile onto the financial burdens of the hospitals.”
The bill is supported by the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, which represents 155 of the state’s 169 cities and towns. The program is designed as a break-even operation with consumers paying the operating costs, but the new program would considerable savings for the municipalities.
State Rep. John Shaban, a Republican attorney from Redding, said that about 20,000 mattresses are discarded annually in New Haven alone.
“Some people just trade them in when they get a new mattress, and where it goes from there, nobody knows,” Shaban said during the debate on House Bill 6437.
Shaban offered an amendment to establish a credit to any consumer who recycles a mattress in accordance with the program. But Democrats were concerned because the fees will be needed to cover the costs. The amendment was defeated on a mostly party-line vote with 49 in favor, 89 against, and 12 House members absent.
“I would like this new, first-in-the-nation council to consider a rebate,” House Republican leader Larry Cafero of Norwalk said during the debate.
The recycling program, if signed into law by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, would start on October 1.
While the program might seem simple, the analysis of the bill by the Office of Legislative Research stretches for six pages.
State Rep. Melissa Ziobron, an East Haddam Republican, said the current disposal is widely haphazard, adding that some citizens had been cleaning up in a Connecticut town and ended up pulling a mattress out of a creek.
“We’re penalizing everyone that purchases a mattress in the state of Connecticut,” said Rep. Rosa Rebimbas, a Republican attorney from Naugatuck. “Unfortunately, I think this bill is creating more problems than the good intentions that it had. … We’re encouraging our residents to go across borders and buy cheaper mattresses. … We are doing nothing, nothing to stop the people who are illegally dumping.”
Rebimbas said the bill would be penalizing the business community.
“We don’t know what the problem is,” said Rebimbas, adding that she hopes that the bill fails.
The measure had been approved by the environment committee in March on a vote of 23 to 5.
Rep. Larry Miller, a Stratford Republican, recalled his childhood days of growing up in Bridgeport and playing on old, discarded mattresses.
“It was a poor man’s trampoline,” Miller said.
Rep. Patricia Widlitz, a Guilford Democrat, said, “This is a bill that many of us have been working on for two years. … We have worked with the International Sleep Products Association. Bills all over the country are starting to pop up. They chose Connecticut to negotiate with us on a bill that will be a model for the entire country. Not only is it a good recycling bill, it will save our municipalities a significant amount of money.”
Rep. Daniel Rovero said that his hometown of Putnam started a mattress recycling program about 15 years ago, but he added there will be a problem with some residents going out of state if the mattresses are cheaper over the border.