Auping launches bedzzzy, a fully circular mattress

The separate components from which mattresses are made are so tightly meshed that they are almost impossible to separate and reuse. This is why more and more mattresses end up in landfills every day. Auping sees this as a tremendous waste. The company has launched a fully circular mattress, in the form of a flexible sleep subscription. “Sustainable choices should be available to everyone".

Circular business cannot exist in a vacuum: customers and vendors are part of a linear supply chain, which in a perfect world should become a circle: a no-waste supply chain. With this in mind, bed manufacturer Auping asked its vendor DSM whether it would be possible to develop a glue that is strong enough to hold a mattress together, but allows for the components to be separated further down the road. Auping then set about identifying alternative mono-materials to use instead of the various mattress components that are so difficult to process. Little by little, the company closed in on its objective: a 100% circular mattress.

Now Auping has succeeded. The new concept will be marketed under the name ‘bedzzzy’. Lisette Lamberts of the Auping Group is in charge of the bedzzzy startup. “Every year the waste mountain grows by one-and-a-half million mattresses,” she explains. “Those mattresses are difficult to process, because of how they’re put together. The materials are so tightly meshed that they’re almost impossible to separate and reuse.”

Accessible

According to Auping, the ‘mattress of the future’ needed to be circular, offer sleepers the same degree of comfort as its predecessor, and still be affordable. One question, however, is whether the market actually needs a sustainable mattress. Lisette believes that this is not the question to ask. “Look at it this way: if people can choose between two high-quality and similarly priced mattresses, and one is produced using sustainable methods and the other isn’t, people will go for the first option - as long as the prices are more or less the same. Sustainable choices should be available to everyone, not just the wealthy among us. That’s the only way to convince people.”

“Another reason for this move is that we believe that there’s a different way of doing things. We’re aware of how big our impact is on the waste stream, and we’re making an active effort to change that. This product presents a high-quality alternative, one that even outperforms standard foam-and-glue mattresses in some respects.”

To ensure that the circle is closed, bedzzzy offers customers a choice: either buy the mattress and pay a fifty-euro deposit, which is refunded if the mattresses is returned; or lease the mattress (with the possibility of monthly cancellation), and receive a new mattress after five years. “The vast majority of customers prefer the lease model,” Lisette adds. “They like the idea of having their mattress replaced after five years, to be disassembled and reused.”

Challenge

Hein Brekelmans of ABN AMRO’s Sustainable Finance Desk is full of praise for initiatives such as bedzzzy. He understands the challenges of developing a circular business model and making it financially viable. Hein himself has spent more than fifteen years studying sustainability, and with his department he assists businesses with their efforts to adopt circular business models. “Bedzzzy has managed to create a circular version of a widely used product and market it at an affordable price, to make it available to the general public.”

ABN AMRO has set itself the target of concluding 1 billion euros’ worth of circular transactions by 2020, from at least 100 deals. The current total is 508 million euros from 44 deals. “We need to pick up the pace,” Hein admits.

Growth process

The Sustainable Finance Desk finds itself facing more or less the same challenges as companies seeking to give shape to circularity: the economy is not always ready for it. “Circularity is a labour-intensive business, plain and simple, and the government taxes labour. Companies are not incentivised to be more careful in their use of materials and use more labour instead. Another problem is depreciation: assets are depreciated to a value of zero over five years, even though many of them could last much longer. That zero basically has no place in the circular economy.” 

Ambitions quite often fall flat in the face of today’s realities, and the bank is sometimes forced to disappoint excited business owners. “They have a circular plan that looks promising, but the risk models that we use mean we can’t finance it. It’s a growth process, for the bank as well as for the businesses.”

Edge

However, Hein adds, Dutch banks are leading the way internationally. ABN AMRO has teamed up with ING and Rabobank to define the Circular Economy Finance Guidelines, a series of collective arrangements about what circularity means, to prevent ‘greenwashing’. “That’s an added benefit of sustainability,” Hein explains. “It takes some of the edge off the competition.” 

Other countries have different views on circularity. “In Japan, they interpret it as being sensible with waste. Our approach is that waste shouldn’t even exist.”

Bedzzzy at least has that fixed. “The mattress contains smart 3D polyester constructions, which actually provide better ventilation and bounce,” Lisette notes. “We’re very excited that ABN AMRO is supporting us. We’ll be working in close partnership with them to scale up bedzzzy. It will be an interesting and educational process for both of us. When it comes to sustainability, ABN AMRO doesn’t just talk the talk: it also walks the walk.”