Posts Tagged ‘Sheffield’


Photo: UTEC Inc.
A Massachusetts nonprofit that works with youth who got off on the wrong foot in life teaches job skills, including working effectively with others, at its in-house businesses. This business breaks down old mattresses for a range of clients.

Recent posts on recycling have overlooked one of the biggest challenges for landfills: mattresses. Fortunately, there are places that break down mattresses and recycle the components. I know of two: one in England; one in Massachusetts. If you know of others, do mention them in the Comments.

PRI’s radio show The World recently featured a recycling story from Sheffield, England. It’s about hydroponically “feeding the world with foam” from old mattresses.

“Tony Ryan, a professor at The University of Sheffield in England, and his team just did that at the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan.

“The mattresses are now repurposed as a growing medium for plants. The soil in Zaatari is salty and low in organic matter making it less than ideal for farming. Lack of space and water are some of the issues that prevent people at the camp from having their own gardens to grow crops.

“The Zaatari camp is home to 80.000 refugees from the Dara’a region of Syria, many of whom are experienced farmers. Now, the foam in the mattresses became hydroponic systems that supports crops, giving farmers the opportunity to apply their years of experience and skills and at the same time produce food to eat and sell.

“Ryan says that this unconventional method uses just 20 percent of the water that it would take to grow something in the ground. The UN Refugee Agency UNHCR oversees the project.”

More here and here.

Closer to home, a Massachusetts nonprofit that works with urban teens who have gotten in trouble uses mattress recycling as a way to teach job skills. In fact, the nonprofit runs its own mattress-recycling business. See this.

In the past, I volunteered to write a couple newspaper articles to promote UTEC’s work (repairing bicycles, making cutting boards), and I’m always getting surprises about some new and important challenge the group has tackled.

To diverge from mattresses for a moment, I want to tell you that UTEC has been registering its participants and getting out the vote.

A recent email informed me, “We are proud to share that 100% of young adults enrolled in programming are registered to vote. #UTECVotes is our ongoing campaign to make sure all UTEC members and staff are registered and informed voters. See UTECvotes.org. On Super Tuesday, as on every election day, we made a day of empowering UTEC young adults to impact their communities of Lowell, Lawrence, and Haverhill.”

(Remember my post on the Movement Voter Project? Now you see how grassroots nonprofits can expand voting.)

Photo: University of Sheffield via PRI’s The World
Plants in a hydroponic system grow in the foam of former mattresses at Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan.


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