Published May 02. 2012 5:00PM Updated May 03. 2012 12:00AM
Hartford — State consumers would pay a little more for a new mattress but would get free, environmentally friendly disposal for it later under a bill that passed the state Senate Wednesday in a 32-4 vote.
The legislation, which has yet to go before the House, aims to address the problem of discarded mattresses turning up on roadsides, in parks and woodlands and on the banks of local waterways.
State Sen. Ed Meyer, D-Guilford, said it also would relieve municipalities of significant costs associated with mattress disposal, which generally range $10 to $45 per mattress and can add up fast.
Connecticut cities and towns spent more than $1.2 million last year managing discarded mattresses, according to the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.
"I think we've all seen, as we drive around the world, mattresses in unusual places," Sen. Andrew Roraback, R-Goshen, said. "When a mattress is thrown out, it's a big job for someone to go out and collect it and do the right thing."
The bill tasks mattress makers with running a "Mattress Stewardship Program" and creating a plan for convenient collection and disposal points in the state for used mattresses. Recycling must be the preferred disposal method when "technologically feasible and economically practical."
The mattress plan would establish a to-be-determined consumer fee to finance the stewardship program. A legislative committee would OK the fee. Retailers would then add the fee to the price of a new mattress.
An early proposal called for assessing mattress makers for the cost of the program. But after an outcry from businesses, the costs were shifted to consumers via the fee.
A handful of municipalities gave supportive testimony at a February hearing on the bill. Lyme's Board of Selectmen passed a resolution supporting the mattress proposal. The resolution declared that such a disposal program would save Lyme thousands of dollars a year.
During Wednesday's debate, Meyer said he couldn't predict the fee that mattress makers would establish, but anticipates "something substantially less than $45" — the top-end cost for landfill disposal.
Four Republicans voted against the bill. Sen. Kevin Witkos of Canton said the fee idea sounds like a "hidden tax."
Meyer said he hopes the Mattress Stewardship Program can become a national model for responsible mattress disposal.