Materials

Circular initiative gives students' bedding a new home

Over 2,000 mattresses, duvets and pillows have been donated for recycling and reuse by students at the University of St Andrews since it joined with The Furniture Recycling Group (TFRG) to provide a circular solution for end-of-term waste.

Circular initiative gives student halls bedding a new home
Each year in the UK there are around one million first-year students enrolling in the UK’s universities, the majority of whom spent the year in halls of residence run by the university before moving on, often getting rid of items like pots and pans and bedding along the way.

According to University of St Andrews Environment Officer Barbara Aitken, two years ago the university sent 6.2 tonnes of material to landfill, ‘despite our students expressing a preference to donate the bedding to good causes’.

Latest figures show an average of 4.3 million mattresses and more than two thirds of textile waste, including bedding, are sent to landfill sites every year in the UK.

In an attempt to cut down on the proportion of this coming from departing students, TFRG – a soft furnishing recycling company based in the North West – and St Andrews teamed up in the 2014/15 academic year before launching a full-scale programme in 2015/16.

At the end of the academic year, each of the university’s halls of residence converts a student games room into a donation point for student to drop off their unwanted bedding.

This bedding is then recycled by TFR Group and passed to sister company R&R Beds which uses the materials to manufacture and fill new mattresses.

Aitken said: “Disposing of such large volumes of bedding was not previously possible through the university’s existing charitable partnerships.

Circular initiative gives student halls bedding a new home
Andrew Melville Hall, one of St Andrews' 10 halls of residence
“We began researching how the University could manage this waste stream in an environmentally friendly and economical way. With the support of TFR Group we are now steadily working towards our target of achieving zero waste to landfill by 2020. Finding a partner who could provide a sustainable solution for end-of-life bedding was very important to the University in order to achieve its goal.

“We have documented the unique recovery process implemented at the university as an example of best practice to be shared within the public sector.”

Circular action for industries and institutions

One it has collected the mattresses and bulky bedding, TFRG uses a dismantling process that enables it to separate 14 different materials and then portion them off for recycling or reuse.

Nick Oettinger, Managing Director at TFRG, said: “Working with the University of St Andrews on the new circular economy initiative has been a great success, and we are proud to have been able to enhance its sustainability results while meeting the needs of its environmentally-conscious student body.

 “We’re always looking for ways to partner with new industries and institutions and we hope to work with more universities and colleges to develop environmentally sustainable solutions for the disposal and reuse of bedding.

More information about the Furniture Recycling Group can be found on the company’s website.

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