From bed frame to biofuel: Winnipeg companies’ unique approach to climate change

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Mother Earth Recycling is a small, for-profit business in Winnipeg’s North End that recycles almost anything electronics, light bulbs, batteries and even mattresses.

It’s 100 per cent owned and operated by Indigenous people, giving those in the surrounding community a place to start out in the workforce while helping the environment. It’s also part of a larger network of organizations in Manitoba taking a unique approach to the fight against climate change while making some money.

Roughly 40,000 mattresses and box springs are thrown out each year in Winnipeg, enough to fill the Manitoba Hydro tower downtown.

But 95 per cent of that material can be recycled and used in completely different products, which makes this an opportunity a few businesses aren’t passing up.

Jessica Floresco, the general manager of Mother Earth Recycling, said if you want to prevent your old mattress or box spring from going to the dump, you can leave it with her company instead.

Workers will take the mattress for a small fee and disassemble it. If it’s infested with bedbugs, the company has an industrial heater on-site made out of an old shipping container. It can kill critters and bacteria by heating up the mattress to over 80 C. Once that’s done, it takes only five minutes for a pair of employees to strip it down.

“So you just take a [utility] knife and do a lap around the mattress,” said Floresco. “You peel off the fabric, then you peel off the foam and usually all that’s left is the metal.”

Only the fabric – a mere five per cent of the mattress – is sent to the landfill. When it comes to the rest, the metal is sent to a local depot then shipped to a foundry in Selkirk, where it is then melted down to be made into other products.

Wooden bed frames are sent to Greensite Recycling, a family business located just north of Transcona. The wood is turned into biofuel and the depot takes in material from all over Manitoba.