Labels that read “green”, “organic”, “natural”, or “all-natural” may make consumers believe they’re making an environmentally responsible choice. However, that might not be true especially when it comes to mattresses. Mattresses are made of many components any one of which could be made of synthetic components that are not biodegradable. The more natural materials and organic components found in the mattress the more biodegradable it will be.
Check the Labels for What’s Really Green
Like many industries, the mattress industry doesn’t have an established standard for what constitutes a “green” mattress. Labels that say organic may mean only one component is certified organic such as the cotton used to make the cover. However, it may not apply to any other part of the mattress.
Biodegradable products need to be made from as many natural materials as possible. Innerspring and foam mattresses have components like steel coils or polyfoam made from synthetic materials that are not biodegradable no matter how eco-friendly the manufacturing process. Those components will continue to survive long past the mattresses disposal.
Latex – A Biodegradable Mattress
There are levels of biodegradability, and mattresses are a large product that is usually made of many components. That makes a biodegradable option difficult to produce. However, latex has proved to be a viable mattress option that does break down over time.
Natural latex, not synthetic which is derived from petrochemicals, is made from rubber derived from the sap of the rubber tree. It can go through one of two processes, Dunlop or Talalay, to become a latex mattress.
- Dunlop: While the mattress may be called a Dunlop latex mattress, the word Dunlop describes the process through which the mattress is made. Dunlop mattresses start as a liquid latex whipped until frothy then injected into a mold. After baking, the mattress is washed and heated a second time to remove all moisture. This process leaves a mattress that’s solid, firm, and dense.
- Talalay: In the Talalay process, the latex is whipped until frothy then poured into a mold that’s exposed to a vacuum, which causes the liquid to expand to fill the mold. Through a complex process that involves carbon dioxide gas and flash freezing, the final product is lighter and less dense than Dunlop latex, though slightly less durable.
Because of their density, Dunlop latex mattresses are the most eco-friendly and biodegradable mattress option. Talalay latex is exposed to more chemicals and processing, though it still remains biodegradable.
Some manufacturers like Avocado make hybrid latex mattresses with innersprings that are certainly a more eco-friendly choice than traditional innersprings. These hybrids aren’t as biodegradable as a natural latex mattress, but they are a step in the right direction. They also come with a more reasonable price.
It’s important to understand that there are levels of biodegradability. A biodegradable mattress will never be as easily broken down as a loaf of bread. The materials are too dense and even eco-friendly options have to be mixed with some synthetic materials. All-natural latex mattresses may still contain anywhere from 5% to 40% synthetic materials.
The fewer synthetic components in the mattress the higher the price will be. If you’re ready to pay a premium price, there are latex mattresses made of 95% natural latex. However, if that’s out of your price range, don’t worry. There are many options that offer good biodegradability with a price tag to meet your budget.
Article contributed by Rick Blanchard. Rick Blanchard is an expert on sleep product materials and manufacturing for BestMattressReviews.com. His research covers the entire life cycle of mattresses and bedding, including production, wear over time, and disposal. Rick lives in Tarrytown, New York.