Recycler says City of Edmonton contract gap will send thousands of mattresses to landfill

·3 min read
Murray Soroka's non-profit company, Redemptive Developments, hires marginalized Albertans to recycle mattresses.  (Madeleine Cummings/CBC - image credit)
Murray Soroka's non-profit company, Redemptive Developments, hires marginalized Albertans to recycle mattresses. (Madeleine Cummings/CBC - image credit)

UPDATE: After this story was published, City of Edmonton spokesperson Marlee Uniat told CBC News the city now plans to store mattresses until a new recycling contract is in place. "There is no longer a change in service and mattresses will not go to the landfill," Uniat wrote in an email. On Thursday, the city had said mattresses would not be recycled. The original story appears below.

The CEO of a company that has been recycling used mattresses for five years says a contract gap with the City of Edmonton will result in thousands of mattresses dumped in a landfill.

Redemptive Developments, a social enterprise based in a northwest Edmonton industrial park, bid on and won a three-year contract with the city to recycle mattresses. After two one-year renewals, the contract ended on Sept. 30.

The company bid on the city's new request for proposals (RFP), which was posted Sept. 22 and closed on Oct. 18, but CEO Murray Soroka expects it will take the city weeks to award the new three-year contract and in the meantime, thousands of recyclable mattresses will be buried in the ground.

"The whole world's talking about the environment, climate change and recycling and yet we just let the contract lapse and no contingency plan was put in place," Soroka said.

Min Dhariwal/CBC
Min Dhariwal/CBC

New material from old mattresses

The city charges Edmontonians a $16 fee to drop off a mattress at an eco station.

Until this month, part of that fee went to Redemptive Developments, whose workers tear apart mattresses and separate their parts into piles.

Over the years, workers have discovered numerous objects hidden in old mattresses and box springs, including money, treasure boxes, weapons, and once, a live cat.

Once mattresses are disassembled, workers feed layers of foam and steel into compressing machines.

Soroka said blocks of steel coils are sold, melted down and made into new products and foam goes to Calgary, where it becomes carpet underlay.

"There's no shortage of uses for the components," he said.

Though Redemptive Developments continues to receive mattresses from suburban communities, schools, hotels and corporations, the city was its biggest client, delivering about 75 per cent of the mattresses recycled at the facility.

The non-profit business employs newcomers, people with criminal records and people experiencing homelessness, but once the city contract ended, Soroka laid off about 20 workers.

Hold on to old mattresses, city says

Matt Boutotte, the general supervisor of site operations at the Edmonton Waste Management Centre (EWMC), said in an email that the RFP process took longer than anticipated, resulting in a delay in awarding a new contract.

He confirmed that until a new contract is finalized, all mattresses and box springs dropped off at the EWMC and eco stations will not be recycled.

"If possible, we recommend that residents hold on to their old mattresses until we have a new recycling contract in place in early December," he said.

Some companies that sell new mattresses, including The Brick and Sleep Country, will recycle old ones for a small fee.

Before October, Redemptive Developments was recycling about 150 mattresses per day.

Soroka said he hopes to win the new contract, but wonders why it was not posted sooner.

"Once a mattress ends up in the landfill, that's where it's going to stay, and that's really unfortunate because that's not necessary," he said.

According to the RFP, more than 50,000 mattresses and box springs were recycled through the city's program in 2020.

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