Are Air Mattresses Recyclable? (7 Great Ways to Reuse Them)

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James Miller
James is an environmentalist, sustainability expert and senior editor at TheRoundup, specializing in testing non-toxic, organic and eco-friendly products. James, his wife and two daughters believe in chemical-free and zero-waste living. They aim to leave the planet in a better state than we found it, for future generations to enjoy.
James Miller
Updated: March 15, 2024

IWhat sustainable sleep solutions do you have for overnight guests?

For many people who aren't fortunate enough to have a guest bedroom, the solution is to inflate an eco-friendly air mattress for them. Air mattresses are certainly cheap and convenient, but they are prone to leaks or damaged valves, and some cheaper models sadly don't last long at all.

If you have an old inflatable mattress that is beyond repair, you might be wondering…are air mattresses recyclable? The answer might surprise you!

In this article, I explore whether you can recycle air mattresses and what other measures you can take to ensure your air mattress disposal is as sustainable as possible.

Read on to get all the juicy details.

Are Air Mattresses Recyclable? Your Options Explained!

Recycling an Air Mattress made from PVC

Most air mattresses are made from PVC, a petroleum-based plastic that’s not easily recyclable.

So can you recycle air mattresses? Yes and no!

You see, although you can’t recycle your air mattress in the traditional sense (i.e., breaking it down into its component parts and reusing them to make new products), you can recycle the PVC.

The process is called mechanical recycling, and it involves grinding up old PVC products and mixing them with new materials to create new products like plastic pipes or playground equipment.

recycled PVC pipes

This type of recycled PVC offers an energy-saving solution for manufacturers that use plastics in their products.

Thankfully, several companies in the U.S. are actively engaged in the mechanical recycling of PVC products like air mattresses. A quick Google search should determine if there are any in your local area.

Or, if you’re having no joy with your research, drop me an email, and I’ll do the searching for you.

Recycling an Air Mattress made from Other Plastics

Not all air mattresses are made from PVC.

Some newer models are constructed from more easily recyclable plastics or even more sustainable materials like natural rubber.

If you’re unsure what your air mattress is made of, ask the manufacturer (or check for a plastic recycling symbol).

Specialist Mattress Recyclers

If your air mattress is made from easily recyclable plastics, you could try recycling it through specialist furniture and mattress recyclers.

Specialist plastic recycling center services are becoming increasingly popular in the U.S. They can help reduce landfill waste by turning old mattresses into new ones or reusing the components in other products.

This mainly applies to more traditional mattress materials (cotton, foam, springs, latex, wool, etc.), but you might find that your local specialists accept air mattresses. It certainly doesn’t hurt to ask!

There are currently 69 mattress recycling facilities in the US. Some specialist mattress recyclers you might want to try include:

mattress recycling yard

7 Options if Your Air Mattress is Not Recyclable

If you can’t find anywhere that’ll take your old air mattress for recycling, don’t despair (and certainly don’t toss it in the trash).

There are still plenty of ways to reuse it and keep it out of landfills.

#1 Donate to a Worthy Cause

If your air mattress is still in good condition (and you simply no longer need/want it), consider donating it to a local charity.

Donations to local charities are a great way to give back to the community and also help reduce waste.

You might also consider giving it to friends or family looking for an affordable temporary sleeping solution.

Before donating, thoroughly clean and sanitize the mattress. Some of the tips in Arabella’s mattress deep clean article also apply to air mattresses.

#2 Turn Into Shopping Bags

Yes, you read that right! You can turn your old air mattress into shopping bags.

This is a great way to reduce plastic waste and give a new useful purpose to your old air mattress.

All you need is some scissors, needle and thread (or sewing machine), and strips of old fabric (preferably sustainable fabric), and you’ll have a bespoke shopping bag in three simple steps:

  1. Cut two pieces out of the air mattress to match the size of the bag you wish to make
  2. Stitch the two pieces together along both sides, and the bottom
  3. Attach two strips of fabric to either side of the top to form handles

Pro Tip: If you want a bag with more capacity, cut an additional rectangular piece of air mattress the same width as the other two pieces and a couple of inches deep. Then stitch this extra piece to the other two to act as the bottom of the bag.

#3 Puncture Repair Patches

Cut your old air mattress into large pieces that you can easily store away.

Then, if you ever have another air mattress (or floating pool mattress, bike tube, etc.) that springs a leak, you can cut off a piece the necessary size and glue it on as a DIY puncture repair patch.

#4 Waterproof Covers

If you have items to store outside and need to protect them from the elements, pieces of an old air mattress might be a good solution (PVC has excellent waterproof properties).

I recently had to store my electric bike outside temporarily while the garage was having work done. An old air mattress cut entirely down one long edge (to form a sort of enormous PVC pitta bread) did a fantastic job of keeping the bike dry and protected.

#5 Ground Sheets

Old air mattress pieces are also useful as ground sheets when camping. They’re lightweight, waterproof, and also offer good insulation.

I use an old piece when going on lengthy hikes (especially in cold weather) to protect myself from the cold ground when picnicking. It’s been a great addition to my gear set.

#6 Camping Mattress

You can even go one step further and make your own bespoke camping mattress.

Simply stick large pieces of air mattress together, roll them up, tie them with eco-friendly twine, and you’ve got an emergency mattress that rolls up small enough to fit in a backpack.

#7 Painting Tarpaulin

If you’re decorating and don’t want to damage the flooring, old pieces of air mattresses make great tarps.

Just cut several large pieces that are big enough to cover the entire area, then lay them out around where you’re painting.

The waterproof plastic will prevent paint spillage, splatters, and other messes from coming into contact with carpets, wooden floors, etc.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use my Hair Dryer to Blow Up an Air Mattress?

Yes. You could use a hair dryer to blow up an air mattress at a push. Just ensure it’s on the cold setting, as using hot air could pose a melting or fire risk.

Can You Fix a Leaky Air Mattress With Duct Tape?

Indeed you can. Duct tape is one of my six favorite methods for repairing an air mattress.

Can Traditional Mattresses be Recycled?

End-of-life disposal of more traditional mattresses is a more straightforward affair. Both synthetic and eco-friendly beds can be at least partially recycled.

Check out Arabella’s excellent advice on how to recycle your old mattress the responsible way.

Can I Put an Air Bed in a Public Recycling Bin?

It’s best not to. PVC air beds will almost certainly end up in landfill if you place them in public recycling bins.

PVC-free air beds might get recycled, but there are no guarantees. It’s best to take them to a designated recycling center or try some of the upcycling methods mentioned earlier in this article.

Can I Burn Old Air Mattresses?

Not a good idea. Inflatable mattresses are usually made from PVC and other synthetic materials, so burning them will release chemicals into the atmosphere.

Can I Turn an Air Mattress Into a Water Bed?

Yes, simply fill your air mattress with water from the garden hose. However, if you’re using it inside. be very careful it doesn’t get damaged and flood your bedroom.

How Long Do Air Beds Last?

This depends on the quality and how often it’s used, but an air bed should generally last between 2-10 years without any problems.

Can You Sleep on an Air Mattress Permanently?

It depends. An air mattress is best used as a temporary solution, as it probably won’t provide enough support if you’re using it long-term (unless you have a super high-quality air bed with additional support systems).

Are Air Mattresses Toxic?

Air mattresses are generally made from materials and shouldn’t cause you much harm (especially if you follow the manufacturer’s instructions for usage and maintenance). You can read my full thoughts on eco-friendly air mattresses here.

Do Air Mattresses Have Weight Limits?

Yes. Most air mattresses will have a weight limit printed on the side of their packaging. However, one of the key benefits of air mattresses is the ability to control the support level by adding extra air or letting some air out.

Do Recycling Centers Make a Profit?

Yes. Most recycling centers make money from your old mattress and other unwanted stuff. A local recycling center that follows the seven steps to green profits can generate a significant turnover.

The Final Word

Don’t put an air mattress in your recycling bin unless you’re confident it’s going to a center that’ll accept it for recycling.

Otherwise, it will cause damage to the recycling center machinery or simply end up in landfill.

Following the advice and tips in this article will help you make the most sustainable end-of-life disposal decisions for your old air mattresses.

Finally, try everything you can to fix any issue before you buy a new air mattress. Consuming new products unnecessarily is not a sustainable practice.

Get In Touch

Do you have a local recycling bin or center that accepts PVC air mattresses? Or do you need to get creative to reuse/upcycle? Drop me a line and let me know.

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James Miller
James Miller
James is an environmentalist, sustainability expert and senior editor at TheRoundup, specializing in testing non-toxic, organic and eco-friendly products. James, his wife and two daughters believe in chemical-free and zero-waste living. They aim to leave the planet in a better state than we found it, for future generations to enjoy. - As Seen On
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