The UTEC Mattress Recycling facility is unlike anything else you’ll find at UTEC. This sprawling warehouse in an industrial section of Lawrence is a far cry from the shiny, contemporary ambiance of Café UTEC.
For proven-risk young adults who have decided to change their lives by giving UTEC a shot, the Mattress Recycling social enterprise program is where they begin their journey. This initial step, known as the Transformational Beginnings (TB) program, provides young people with an hourly wage and basic on-the-job experience while they do the physical labor of picking up, moving, and “de-manufacturing” a multitude of mattresses.
Each young person is closely supervised and supported, and, if after a month or two, they’ve shown they are ready and willing, will then advance into UTEC’s Workforce Development program, in which they will be paired with a Transitional Coach, begin work in one of the other social enterprises (either Food Services or Woodworking), and perhaps resume their education with our onsite HiSET classes.
In an effort to make the workplace a bit more congenial, the physical space has been upgraded in recent months with new equipment, an improved lunch/break area, and many of the walls receiving a fresh coat of paint, most recently by a team of volunteers from the Holderness School in Plymouth, New Hampshire.
The UTEC Mattress Recycling program officially began in 2014 when it became the subcontractor to provide mattress pickup service for the City of Lowell. In 2015, the Mass. Dept. of Environmental Protection selected UTEC as a qualified vendor for Massachusetts Statewide Mattress Recycling Services, and since then it has greatly expanded.
Today the program picks up mattresses from a variety of regional hotels, colleges, and healthcare facilities as well as servicing more than 15 towns throughout northeast Massachusetts. Last year the program processed some 15,000 mattresses, recycling 85% of the materials, and this year the plan is to process approximately 25,000 mattresses. The recycled materials – primarily wood, metal, and foam – are treated by the staff as essentially commodities and sold (generally for very little) or repurposed, all of which translates into tons of material diverted from the waste stream.
UTEC Mattress Recycling is a win-win for all: It is a welcoming place for proven-risk young people to start anew and gain paid work experience, while directly helping to create a more sustainable environment. Most importantly, however, this program serves as the critical stepping-stone in helping these young people begin to transform their lives.
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Source: Lowell Sun