Northern Ireland

Beds give soft landing to show-jumping horses

Staff at work in the warehouse
Image caption Staff at work in the warehouse

Who would have thought your bed could end up providing a soft landing for show-jumping horses?

That is what is happening to thousands of mattresses diverted from landfill by an innovative project in Belfast.

As many as 800 mattresses a week are being processed at the warehouse off the Shankill Road in Belfast.

They come from council recycling centres and bed shops which dispose of customers' used mattresses.

Image caption Recycled polyester is used to make socks and fleeces

At the warehouse, the mattresses are stripped down to their component parts.

Polyester is sent off to make socks and fleeces.

Foam is sent to make carpet underlay and a felt layer over the springs is used in equestrian centre flooring, as well as for acoustic dampening in cars.

Image caption The steel springs are shredded and recycled

The steel springs are chopped up and the metal sent off for reuse.

A small amount of fabric is sent to produce energy from waste in an incinerator.

The project, run by Ulster Supported Employment and Learning (USEL), started 18 months ago and provides nine full-time jobs for people with health conditions.

Manager Scott Jackson says more than 13,000 mattresses have been processed this year - diverting 400 tonnes from landfill.

Image caption Up to 800 mattresses a week are processed

"Mattress recycling has become a big thing because they clog up landfill and wreck landfill machinery," he said.

The project is not-for-profit so all the income is ploughed back in to the venture.

It is estimated that there are about 215,000 mattresses in UK landfills.

Image caption The shredded springs are melted down for reuse

For every 100 mattresses in Northern Ireland, it is estimated that only one is recycled.

They are difficult to compact and can cause fires by absorbing hazardous materials.

USEL was established in 1962 with the aim of providing supported paid employment for people with disabilities.

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