Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

When you can’t get rid of a mattress & box spring because… May 27, 2023

A full-size mattress and box spring fill the back of our van. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo May 2023)

MONDAY EVENING RANDY AND I crammed a full-size used mattress and box spring into the back of our van. It was not an easy task, but we squeezed both inside. We intended to drop the worn out set off at the Rice County Landfill the next day upon our return from a medical appointment in Northfield. Sometimes, though, plans go awry.

En route to Northfield early Tuesday morning, we noticed smoke billowing in the distance. Randy said he’d seen the same smoke on Monday, but much thicker, blacker. Burning tires type of smoke. The closer we got to Northfield, the denser the smoke, enough to warrant turning on the headlights. Smoke settled like fog upon the landscape. The air smelled putrid.

Before we left Northfield, we learned the fire was at the county landfill, a blaze which began Monday evening among all that trash. Still, we were hopeful we could drop off the mattress and box spring. What were we thinking? Randy turned the van off Minnesota State Highway 3 onto the road leading to the landfill. There a portable electronic sign flashed that the landfill was closed to the public and open to licensed haulers only.

So here we are, many days later, driving around with an old mattress and box spring filling the bulk of our van. The latest update from the county states that the landfill will remain closed to non-licensed haulers at least through Monday. There are health and environmental concerns related to the still smoldering (maybe still burning) garbage. I appreciate that local and state officials are monitoring, testing, protecting.

For county residents like us who need to get rid of household items, county officials have now provided a list of local licensed garbage haulers who are accepting things like mattresses and box springs. I called two haulers. One quoted me a price of $65, the other $70 for each piece. So we’re talking $130-$140, a price we don’t want to pay.

I then checked the county landfill website for disposal pricing. There are three options: $25 for each piece if they’re recyclable. What makes a mattress and box spring recyclable? I have no idea. Next, $35/each with prior permission. Finally $55/each without prior permission. Permission from whom? And why is prior permission needed? I appreciate clarity. (And I thought to myself, no wonder people dump mattresses and box springs in ditches if disposals costs range from $50-$110.)

What also remains unclear are how long the fire will burn/smolder, how the environment and air quality have been impacted, and how the health of anyone who’s breathed in that smoke has been affected. Randy and I traveled through that smoke, breathed it in on our drive to and from and during our time in Northfield.

And we live only eight miles from the landfill, which was near enough for that smoke to drift…and we did close the windows in our house Thursday evening because of a putrid odor. Was the smell from the landfill fire? I don’t know. As for that bed set, it’s still stuffed in the back of the van.

© Copyright 2023 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


19 Responses to “When you can’t get rid of a mattress & box spring because…”

  1. beth Says:

    not ideal, and it can be a real challenge to get rid of large items. hopefully the fire is dampened soon and you can take your car space back once again, without paying a fortune to do so. who knew it would be so complicated ?

  2. Danny Urban Says:

    I sure hope that they open up on Tuesday. I have been hauling around a 32″ monitor that needs to be recycled.

  3. Wow- sounds like a drag for everyone: the air quality, the owners of the landfill and people like you, trying to be responsible. Uff.

  4. Sandra Says:

    Thanks for the update, as you know, I have “people”, some as close as 3 mi. to the landfill. The state better get some resources into the action plan. Air quality is serious. Not knowing the cause is more than a little disturbing!

  5. a fire at the landfill is an environmental hazard for sure. What happens to old mattresses?

  6. Valerie Says:

    We saw the smoke too. Found out it was a landfill fire. Hopefully you can drop off your mattress soon.

  7. Unbelievable! What a horrible situation, hopefully can get it resolved without to much more trouble.

  8. Oh boy. In our little community there is always someone posting on NextDoor that they have a barely used mattress and in most cases I believe that is correct as we have many second homes here that are not used that often. While I understand the health hazards of used mattresses, I also know there are people living without that could really use them. Our landfill does take stuff like this but of course there is a fee as well. The fire at yours is concerning, of course. Hope that they are able to get it put out and that the air quality continues to be monitored.

  9. Susan Seykora Says:

    How much does it cost to dispose of a mattress, box springs and pillows. Steele county.

    • Susan, you would need to contact Steele County or look on the county website. There is a place, Bridging, in Bloomington and Roseville, which accepts mattresses, box springs and much more. Check their website. Your bed set would need to be in good enough condition for use by those without either.

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