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In Pictures: Calgary startup keeps mattresses out of landfills

Shawn Cable is still looking for partner firms to buy the steel, foam, cotton and wood

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While touring a department-store warehouse a few years back, Shawn Cable noticed mattresses. A lot of mattresses. Some had been returned by customers after a short trial and couldn’t be resold. He started thinking: What, he wondered, could be the best way to keep these unwieldy things out of a landfill? The Calgarian decided to make it his business to rip the things apart and recycle them. He founded Re-Matt Inc. in 2014.

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With five full-time and three part-time employees, Mr. Cable’s company disassembles between 3,000 and 3,500 mattresses each month, distributing the components – namely steel, foam, cotton and wood – to local and regional recycling partners. Mr. Cable, 36, was touring a Sears distribution centre, surrounded by mattresses, when he came up with the idea. With funding from the Business Development Bank of Canada, he launched Re-Matt.

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Re-Matt makes money by charging dropoff fees. Mr. Cable’s main clients are retailers, and he also works with major hotel chains, and takes in mattresses from residential customers, charging them $15 a pop. The company also recycles box springs for the same price.

Chris Bolin/The Globe and Mail

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Most of Re-Matt’s disassembly is done by hand and was learned by trial and error. “There weren’t a lot of people doing it,” Mr. Cable says. “People who are in the industry were really tight-lipped because they wanted to keep their secrets to themselves.” Re-Matt is able to transform 95 per cent of a mattress, by weight, into recyclable materials, the company says. This fits nicely with Calgary’s goal to divert 70 per cent of its waste from landfill within the next nine years.

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Right now, some of Re-Matt’s metal and foam goes to recyclers, and the company has found a few buyers who can use the wood. The cotton, meanwhile, is shipped to a company in Vancouver. They don’t sell everything, but sending recyclable materials to the landfill goes against the principles Mr. Cable started the company for in the first place.

Chris Bolin/The Globe and Mail

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To be more sustainable, both ecologically and financially, he needs to find more, and more flexible, recipients, to add to the revenue they make from taking in mattresses. For instance, “springs aren’t easy for metal recyclers to work with,” he says. “Pocket coils are tough, with their textile coverings.” For a company focusing on expanding its customer base, building more business partnerships on the material-sales side has been difficult, he says.

Chris Bolin/The Globe and Mail

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