With its low self-esteem and high urban blight, Hartford is the ultimate underdog city. Sad City Hartford documents the joys, sorrows and eccentricities of New England's Rising Star.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Hartford Mattress Surplus Solved!

Hartford residents are very familiar with the abundance of mattresses that can be found strewn about our City’s streets. We here at Sad City have a fascination with some of the larger mattress “colonies” that we have found congregated on the City’s sidewalks.

While amusing, one can’t help but wonder, where do these mattresses come from? We have certainly visited other cities and not seen this type of mattress surplus. Even sister Sad Cities like Bridgeport, Wallingford and East Hartford don’t seem to have such an abundance of mattresses. So what is going on with the mattress population in Hartford?

Through a little research and some help from loyal Sad City reader Farm Boy, we think we might have solved the riddle puzzling economists for decades; why the surplus of mattresses on Hartford sidewalks? The answer it turns out has nothing to do with supply and demand of mattresses or housing in Hartford, instead the answer can be found by investigated the method of trash disposal utilized in our Sad City.

In earlier times, when the City of Hartford ran Mt. Trashmore, they were able to send mattresses and other like items to the landfill for disposal.  When the Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority (“CRAA”) took over the landfill, Hartford still could dispose of mattresses and other bulky waste items there for the price of $85 per ton (“tipping fee”).

When Mt. Trashmore closed on December 31, 2008, the city now had to send old mattresses to the CRAA plant on Maxim Road, still for the tipping fee of about $85 per ton.  The plant on Maxim Road uses an old coal burner from the 1920’s to burn garbage into steam, then used to create electricity.

Because the plant used is a retrofitted coal plant, it made the most sense for the Maxim Road plant uses a process called “Refuse Derived Fuel”  (“RDF”) in which garbage is shredded before being burned. This is opposed to a “Mass Burn” process in which all garbage (including mattresses and box springs)  is burned without shredding.

RDF has other advantages over mass burn including the ability to separate out recyclable materials that people have thrown away. RDF also burns very hot and clean and gives off little to no ash residue. This residue must be landfilled by plants that use the mass burn method.

To shred the garbage for burning, CRAA purchased what is known as a “Volume Reduction Machine” (it’s a shredder; check out the cool video of a mattress getting shredded). Apparently mattresses and box springs are difficult to process and damaging to the shredder. 

On July 1, 2010, CRAA started charging a $45 fee per mattress or box spring shredding to discourage the items from coming into the plant. After an outcry over the service charge, it was lowered to $30. Interestingly, West Hartford charges its residents $45 per mattress or box spring.

Since Hartford is not a city exactly awash in cash, the disposal of these mattresses now has become quite a problem. This is probably why there doesn’t seem to be any particular hurry to remove mattresses from city sidewalks. Sources tell Sad City that two months into the fiscal year of 2010, the City of Hartford has a backlog of 2,500 mattresses and box springs that need to be disposed of. That is of course a cool $75,000 needed for mattress disposal; not an insignificant sum given the City’s financial situation and surely a contributing factor to the abundance of old mattresses that can be found throughout Hartford.

Thanks again to Farm Boy for his tips!


  1. the abundance of trashed mattresses might also be due to the horrendous bed bug problem in hartford...
    i'm itching just thinking about it!

  2. Gotta agree with jenny! its the bugs!!!

  3. Please tell me you exaggerate-I've not heard of bedbugs here in HTFD just yet?

  4. Word of advice. Don't take any "free" furniture off the side of the road!!!

  5. It's never a bad idea to wrap your mattress in a plastic bag. Also if your buying a new bed frame, I always go with metal. I lived in Boston for years where the bed bugs are rampant. At one point I was the only one out of 4 roommates not to have bed bugs and I had a wrapped mattress and metal bed frame.

  6. I got my mattress off the sidewalk. It's like new!

  7. I lived next door to an apartment building owned by a group called Intertown Realty for years. They had a thing where they regularly brought in trash, mattresses, couches, and other bulky waste items from their many apartments in West Hartford, and threw them out in Hartford because the city does not charge for these items to be picked up like the town West Hartford does. This scummy landlord trick is not uncommon I think and adds to our mattress woes

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