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Saving the World with ISPA’S Sleep Products Sustainability Program

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Imagine if your trash only got picked up monthly, instead of weekly. How differently would you view how you contribute to the world’s overall waste?

In today’s episode, we chat with ISPA President Ryan Trainer and CEO of Pleasant Mattress Rion Morgenstern about their predictions for the industry, shifts in the sustainability mentality, legislation, and implementation for the Sleep Product Sustainability Program (SP2), and its partnership with the Mattress Research Council (MRC). Plus, we discuss economic incentives to recycling and how the process of sustainability begins much earlier in the life of a mattress—recycling doesn’t just occur once the mattress is used and old!

Full Transcript

Mark Kinsley 

Welcome to the Dos Marco show. These words will define the future of mattress materials and manufacturing, biodegradable, recyclable, carbon neutral and zero waste. End of Life is the President Ryan trainer and pleasant mattress CEO Ryan Morgenstern are on the show. And they’re going to help us look inside the crystal ball of our future the DOS Marcos show begins in 60 seconds.

Mark Kinsley 

So excited to have Ryan and Rion keeping the world and balanced against Mark and Mark on the show today. But hey, if you’re watching on our YouTube channel, we’ve got a couple of I mean we look like Twinkies. Let’s be honest. And we can thank our dear back tatted friend Keith Moneymaker for the sweet merchandise Oklahoma. Speaking of back tats, he gave me a nice back tat here was that say Quinn,

Mark Quinn 

Dreams for all baby. We want everybody to understand the value of a great mattress and Keith is committed to it. We love his heart for that we love his heart for his own team and for this industry. And thank you for the swag man. This is good. And nice hoodie, high quality. We got the tumblers right hats hoodies were like set

Mark Kinsley 

well, and if you are wondering what his dreams for all Foundation, Keith started this at four out of his two shops in North Carolina to give mattresses to Afghan and Syrian refugees in the area who didn’t have a place to sleep. And that’s extended to become a really important part of his business, his connection to the community and now he’s helping other mattress manufacturer mattress. Retailers get involved with a similar programme. So they’re finding homes for these mattresses, and connecting them to people who might be sleeping on the couch or the floor. And so yeah, definitely get connected to keep money maker. We’ll put a link to dreams for all foundation in the show notes and he’s doing really great work. And speaking of doing really great work. We’ve got a couple of guys who are doing great work for our industry. Mr. Ryan trainer and Mr. Ryan Morgenstern. Alright guys, are you ganging up on us, Ryan and Ryan versus Mark and Mark, are we going to figure out how to make a Ryan Mark team here?

Ryan Trainer 

I think we’ll make it work.

I think it’s it’s that you know, casual couples, tennis match dose markers against

Mark Kinsley 

Pickleball for Quinn pickleball.

Mark Quinn 

It’s got to be I got tennis elbow, but we can do that. And then like, it’d be like an Olympics, we could do that pickleball and do some mountain biking and then maybe have a legal debate. So Ryan has an edge on everybody. And then Ryan, we can do everything in this sustainable space and you’ll kick all our butts. So it’ll be perfect.

Ryan Trainer 

That’s great, sustainable tequila, please.

Mark Kinsley 

Do they feel is not very sustainable in our presence. I will say that. The lifecycle was very clear, though. That’s right. Well, guys, we’re excited to have you on the show. Look, we make one of the largest items that get shovelled into landfills. And that’s a problem that’s already starting to shape our industry. So Mr. Traynor? Let’s start with you. Tell us the story of sustainability for our industry. And we were talking previously, like you pointed out Ryan Morgenstern. It’s a word that really isn’t clear to everyone. So, Mr. Ryan Traynor, what does sustainability mean to you and for our industry, in your opinion?

Ryan Trainer 

Well, sustainability, as you said, is a very broad concept. It’s it’s a, in the short term, we’ve been focused on the recyclability of our products. What do we do with them at the end of our use their useful life? But we’re really wanting to start looking more at what goes into our products? How can we reduce our environmental footprint? How can we be more efficient in making our products from utilities consumption, electricity consumption, materials, consumption point of view. And also we want to look at what goes into our products. There’s a lot of people who talk about their products being sustainable for various reasons. I view his role here as being able to work with the policymakers to make sure that any government policies that are set for industry are practical and reasonable. But also just to raise the awareness of these issues within the industry. Make sure that we’re all talking about these using a common vocabulary, understanding what others outside the industry are doing, understanding what some of the pressures will be from government and from consumers in the future. So I view our role there as being just kind of helping to cross pollinate ideas and, and, and share wisdom that others have developed to better our industry. Principally, we’ve been focused on recycling right now. But we’ll be looking more in the future at broader issues for sustainability. Okay, so

Mark Kinsley 

the ball came back to me. I’m hitting it across the net to Ryan Morgenstern. What does sustainability mean to you and for your business, and especially now that you have more of a connection and a relationship with some of the programmes that SP is rolling out? Tell us your story?

Rion Morgenstern 

Yeah, great question. You know, I. So first of all, when I think of sustainability, I think it’s a lot broader than just our industry. I mean, sustainability, people have been doing sustainable practices, even before they even thought of matches, right, you just go back to crop rotation. You know, if you if you planted one property planted every season, you took all the nitrogen out of the soil. So early farmers figured out how to be sustainable and maintain the same acre of soil by rotating the crops on that nitrogen back in others that take it out. And so sustainable practices is about maintaining an environment in a healthy way, ongoing in an intentional, and, you know, with the MRC, the mattress recycling Council started off and started recycling mattresses out of California and other states. Very quickly after that, it spilled look at creating a programme that went down to the next level, you know, back to that farmer metaphor, right. So if you’re sustainable in your, in your practices of planting, how can you be sustainable in your practices of harvesting now, right? How what’s the equipment that you’re using are using horses that you’re, you know, you know, working way too hard? Are you using, you know, John Deere equipment or something like that. So now we started looking at the manufacturing side of things and in partnership with the American Home Furnishings association is for brought an idea of a programme called SP to the sleep product sustainability programme. Did I get that right, Ryan? It’s kind of a mouthful. Exactly. That’s right. And so Ryan trainer knows that I’m, you know, the guy who’s up for just about anything at any time and being out in California. He called and said, Hey, would you guys be interested in and looking at this and he dedicated some, some team some his team to come out and other consultants to say what this programme is? And it was a quick yes, I mean, for me, in particular, because being in California, this is sustainability for a planet or state, it’s top of mine. And it’s something that we didn’t we’ve always acted sustainably acted with the idea of reducing waste in our factory there’s a big economic thing I mean, most of our factories, do you bundle up your phone, you saw the guy making carpet pad. But we didn’t really have a system to to go through the the organisation systematically and say, Okay, how are we acting in a sustainable fashion, in the office, in the in the quilt manufacturing, in the wood waste from our foundation department in in all those things. So what SP Chu gave us really, really cool was this entire system, that then we attached a team to internally from all different departments, and they started looking at what’s our inputs? We don’t use a lot of water in our industry, but we use power. We use air. Power generates that air. We have raw materials coming in with plastic covering. So first, we identified all that stuff, and then start parsing out in little, little areas. Right this is this is a big picture that breaks down into little things. First, what can we do to reduce our coal traps? So let’s start weighing it. And then let’s start experimenting with intentional ways that we can start reducing what goes into that waste stream?

Mark Quinn 

Right? What was the you talked about diving into, when you first start diving into all that? Like, what was the unexpected? Did you kind of uncover some things that maybe you didn’t anticipate?

Two things, two things really, and one of them seems a little obvious. When you start looking at how much waste you’re generating, it’s shocking how much how much our waste streams are. I mean, it really, really is. Imagine just in your home, if you didn’t have a weekly trash pickup, maybe you had a monthly trash pickup, and then you could look at a month worth of output that, you know, in one go, it’s shocking. The second part of it is how excited the staff was at all levels that we were focusing on this. And, you know, in the US and internationally, the, the world is talking about, like climate change right now, whether you’re whether you believe it or not, that is the conversation and particularly in our schools. Hope you don’t mind a little I’m not a cat, by the way, that’s just

Mark Quinn 

I’m glad to know you’re not a cat. But that’s okay, we can keep that cat around. He’s, he seems to be good luck for us. That’s good.

Rion Morgenstern 

So, I mean, the conversation in the schools, that’s where the teachers are teaching, about sustainability and about our planet, and the changes that are happening. And those kids are going home to their families. And they’re talking they’re they’re instituting recycling programmes in their own homes. And then we start talking about sustainability in our factory and our, our entire employee population gets it because the messages are coming from their kids. And their kids are saying, Mom, Dad Don’t put that Aluminium can in the trash, but in in the recycling. So when we started talking about reducing those waste streams, and making sure that we’re getting items into recycling streams, or not into the waste stream at all, by reducing it, they got it really quickly.

Mark Kinsley 

And I think that’s a key point, which is, the shift has already happened. Like you mentioned, the conversation around climate change and sustainability and best environmental practices. It’s already happened. And whenever whenever kids in the household are so far ahead of the parents, and obviously the grandparents, you know, the shift is already underfoot. What do you guys when you look at our industry, and you think future state? What are some of the predictions that you’ve developed as you’ve gone through this exercise with SP two? Do you think it’s something that and maybe an old school industry like ours is going to be slow to adopt on what happens when you look in the crystal ball?

Ryan Trainer 

From a recycling standpoint, we’ve been, you know, not first to the market in terms of recycling our products. But we’ve taken a leading role here, our programme we’re operating today in California, Connecticut, and Rhode Island, we’re recycling nearly 2 million units a year that would otherwise wind up in landfills. And the programme is very well regarded in those states. We’re in negotiations right now in five more states to try to bring those states into the programme. We are about to have a bill, we think in New York, which would be another huge state to add to the programme. We are in discussions, we have a bill that we’re supporting in Massachusetts, another in Minnesota, we have one in Oregon that we are supporting as well, and we’re in discussions with Maryland, and perhaps Maine will be coming on as well. So so we’re poised to grow the programme, we’ve developed a system that works very well with got a funding mechanism that works very well. And we’ve been able to protect the industry.

Rion Morgenstern 

Yeah, if I if I might add, you know, just to answer your other question, you know, Can Can an old school industry like ours actually embraced this idea. And the really cool part about sustainability is, particularly as the SB two programme is defined, is that there’s a strong economic incentive, you know, after the holidays, we got so much fat on our bodies, it’s, it’s easy to lose that first 15 or 20 pounds as we come into our suffer body or dad body as as it as it may be. And that’s kind of where our industry is right now. So there’s a strong economic incentive for us to operate better now. As that as that margin gets thinner and thinner, then it becomes more of a commitment. But we’ll be in a generational change by that.

Mark Quinn 

So right, let’s talk about the economic part of that. Because I think that’s an important point. So when you start drilling down on your own business, I mean, talk about the cost add versus the cost savings, when you started to really try to understand how to be more sustainable with your business.

Rion Morgenstern 

Sure. And so the cost add is, is nominal. And I mean, when you really talk about talk about it, we haven’t experienced, just trying to be careful about this. We haven’t experienced any hard costs at all right now. It’s, it’s really staff time and focus. And in also trying to get the cat to not knock over my computer while talking, excuse me, it’s really time, energy and focus. And particularly for us during COVID, there was so much disruption going on anyway, that this was a this was something that we could, that we were internally in control of, and we could assign staff to. Now from an from an external or cost saving standpoint, for mattress manufacturers, you you’ll get it immediately. So you got your you got your crop out every time you go through a cool transition. And so if you’re not paying attention, this crop outs, you know, your quilters are just they’re untrained. And those crop outs might be, it might accidentally be 12 inches, and they might be you know, 18 or 24 inches. And if you look at it look at quote strap, particularly those transitions, you could be talking about anywhere from, you know, 1520 cents to a couple bucks an inch depending on the fill material that’s going in there. So let’s say you’re at a 12 inch crop out, which is, you know, that’s pretty good 10, if you can get it gets a little tighter, but a 12 inch crop out might be six bucks.

Mark Quinn 

Hey Ryan, wait for people who may not know that manufacturing term, can you explain that the crop out?

Rion Morgenstern 

Sure. So when you’re running fabric and foam through a quilter, you come to transition periods where you’re either switching to a new quilt fill or switching to a different panel. And so you overlap materials from these big giant rolls. And when you overlap those materials, there becomes a seam and an unusable part of that of that quote rule. So then you have to crop that out so that you have the right panel starting so you can put it on a beautiful high quality mattress. So at a 12 inch pull out of that, that’s just going to go straight into the waste stream, right hopefully goes in recycling, some areas it can, it can be turned into carpet pad, some areas with the foam and the fibre together, it’s really hard to recycle. But from just pure waste standpoint, dollar waste, if that’s if 12 inches is $6.50 an inch, and you got $12 If you’re doing 24 inches, so you could be you could be throwing away twice as much money if you’re not really focused on we want those narrow reduction of waste. So the economic benefits the waste stream benefit are our one to one in that in that area. Where it gets interesting is when you start looking at your inbound waste, I mean how many of us at home with Amazon or, or even in our factories, we get products rock wrapped in plastic. And so looking at the the package quantity of that. And just the easy connection as you go to Costco and you buy the the the pallet size of toilet paper. And sure each toilet paper roll and there’s individually wrapped, but the entire thing’s only wrapped once. And it’s the same thing when you think about it stack of foam, right? If you’re getting 10 pieces of a stack of foam in one plastic wrap. It’s a lot more waste efficient from the wrapping standpoint to get it in 20 in that same package, because you still only have one top and bottom. And then you just have a little bit more sides. And so we’ve been working with our vendors to talk about we call it the put up quantity. You know what, what put up quantity can they order can we order that in will help reduce their cost? Because it’s less plastic they have to use, reduce the waste that we have to bundle bail and then recycle.

Mark Kinsley 

Right? It’s almost like every phase and every element is put under the microscope and you can find efficiencies you can find ways to cut back on waste. You can find ways to save money. What does that process really look like? I mean is it just taking it one chunk at a time putting all your people together. And then you have a playbook from ESPA. What does this look like for mattress manufacturers?

Rion Morgenstern 

Yeah, that’s, that’s exactly it. It’s, it’s having a team that’s focused on First off, or at least a person who is your champion. And I mean, we’ve all, we’ve all done rollouts in organisations before, and you really need that champion who believes in it, who has the authority and autonomy back. So identify your champion, help them put together team that that they work with, and then involve people all the way down the line level. So when we start looking at changes, you know, the person closest to the job usually has the most detailed information about how that job’s done. So when we start looking at a process, like the plastic waste takes a little bit of education to get people to think outside of, you know, I take this pallet and move it over here. But when you start opening their eyes a little bit to saying, okay, so you see all of the plastic that that stuff came into that you’re taking off and going into the baler, what do you think we could do to change that? And you get some really interesting answers. And then, you know, it’s kind of from the tech side of things to say, experiment and be willing to fail. And so it empowers employees quite a bit. And actually, we gained a lot of buy in with it as well.

Mark Quinn 

You know, one of the things I like about what you’re saying, Ryan, is, it goes back to one of the unexpected obstacles, observations, when you first started to dive in, that your own people were kind of fired up about it. Like, I don’t know if you anticipated that, or maybe you anticipated some push on that. But see, you found that they were kind of excited about that. So I think the purpose in like, literally carrying that message to your team, no matter what part of the industry, you’re in in saying, Hey, guys, it’s a cost savings potentially, for us because of waste. But it’s also it’s so important to do it because of you know, it’s just good for planet Earth and sustainability reasons. So I really like that. And another thing that I I just want to point out something that you said was find the champion, because if you don’t have that person who’s going to own that whole process, it’s gonna it’s gonna fall flat. Rand Morgan stern talk about, like, how has this been a resource for you?

Rion Morgenstern 

Many, many ways. In general, I mean, you look at the all the different programmes that we’ve participated in from, you know, the data gathering and consuming and and the expo and all that in general. But for sp two in particular. What got me so excited about this is that it wasn’t just some one off thing that we were going to do that in and one thing that we haven’t, I don’t think we’ve made clear yet is that SB two is a third party audited and certified programme. So there’s a there’s a whole framework associated with this that’s bigger than just my factory. I mean, I could have hired a consultant to come in and look at this closely. But what ISPA has really done is put together a programme, that they’ll provide some support and training to get started with and then there’s a third party that you that you hire and bring in every year to get recertified. So it’s something that, you know, to use this or use this word, but it’s something that’s sustainable for our industry. It’s got an entire lifecycle in and of itself, that that which is self perpetuating.

Mark Kinsley 

Guys, it’s interesting to hear the terminology. Ryan trainer, you talked about this lexicon that we need to develop, and having shared language and language matters, because sustainability is such an abstract concept that we need to be singing from the same hymnal. And so as we develop that language, I just listened to some of these terms we’re using like, end of life. And I think of ourselves as a boy, we’re turning into funeral planners here. We’ve got a mortuary going on. So maybe maybe one of the turns picking introduces reincarnation, because I think it’s gonna be more exciting whenever we can think about our products, you know, becoming something useful and looking at an actual tangible product that the foams or the steel turns into. What are some of those those items that you’ve seen? I mean, are we seeing finished product from mattresses yet well,

Rion Morgenstern 

cancelling let me jump in there and just call out what you said a little bit, which is so true. So what’s been happening outside rim shoe for many years is this concept of cradle to grave, which is a little McCobb. But then the conversation changed about eight or nine years ago to cradle the cradle. Because we really want to think about what’s happening. The biggest concept around sustainability and I think it gets to the heart of the idea is circularity. You know what, what can be made today? Use tomorrow then has a next life. So your comment about reincarnation, it’s I was gonna say dead on but I don’t think that’s it’s alive

Mark Kinsley 

on its you know hey as as we’ve been talking of course, we’ve had a black cat cross our path here a few times I don’t know where this is trendy. No, that’s that’s that is a good shift, I think in our mindset and in the conversation in the industry because ultimately, you know, one kind of exclamation point I think we can put on this conversation is what Ryan Morgenstern said. And Mark, when you jumped on this, which is having people champion these initiatives internally, how do people be excited about them, having people be proud when they can go home, and sit around the dinner table with their family members and say, This is how we are changing the world, in our industry. Those are the pieces that need to be in place for this to really have traction, you know, and I often say attraction leads to momentum. And once you have momentum, that can be a flywheel effect. And I think we need to get there as an industry because people are putting everything under that microscope, even just common consumers, whenever they get a package from Amazon, they’re looking at the amount of packaging and waste and material and thinking, why. And then when, when we’ve been at home, as much as we’ve been at home over the past couple of years. And you see your recycling bin, bursting out of the top, just mushrooming out with cardboard, because we’ve had to order so much in our home is starting to get to a point of recognition. And I think changes is underway. And we appreciate what you guys are doing what what did we not ask you or what do we not?

Rion Morgenstern 

I’d say Kinsley, I didn’t I didn’t answer your other question about what what products are out there now that are dealing with or are close to that, and you know, kind of like fashion, Europe tends to be a little bit ahead of us by by a few years visiting a mattress show in in Kelowna, a few years ago, right before the pandemic. And shockingly enough, there is a mattress show in Europe, right? That’s actually pretty cool. I don’t remember if it was the company that you mentioned Ryan, but one of them had had done a glueless pocket coil system that was perforated around the centre of the coils with different layers. And in the pockets were made at a poly Ester, I believe, maybe polyethylene, and then polyester comfort layers and 100% polyester cover. The really cool thing about that entire mattress is one it was super comfortable and to it, it tears apart by hand very easily. And 100% of that polyester is recyclable at full strength in the next life. And then that steel is 100% recyclable at full strength in next life. So it can be done with a comfortable product. That is that has a full circular lifecycle. So

Mark Quinn 

I want to talk about that because, well, I don’t know if there’s another group but my my partner is on Spink and Co. That side Harrison Spinks, Simon Spinks, one of my business partners incredibly smart guy. He’s growing beds, that’s kind of our tagline was spinning crate. So we grow hemp, we grow flax, which is linen, we have our own sheep, a lot of natural materials. And then he did take it to the next step where he’s got a glueless pocketed coil. So the problem with recycling any kind of pocketed coil unit, which is the majority of them in the market today is the glue gums up the the machines or the devices that try to recycle them, and then there’s a lot of labour in that. And so a lot of a lot of props to them. And they’ve committed to being carbon neutral by 2023, which is right around the corner. And so I think us telling stories like that talking to people like Ryan and Ryan Morgenstern with what he’s doing and talking to you, Ryan. I think getting the stories out there TSI announced that they’re going to be carbon neutral, trying to be carbon neutral by 2040. They’re doing solar panels on their factory in New Mexico to take 2 million kilowatt hours to put into the energy system. So I think just telling those stories, Ryan Trainor, are there more people, like constructing a bed to deconstruct a bed like it would seem to me like like kind of what Simon is doing? Like, let’s let’s put some thought into how do you manufacture the products so that when you get to the end of life that you can quickly efficiently in a low cost way, get those materials back into the supply chain is another raw material?

Mark Kinsley 

Or you’re listening to the show and you want to highlight something you’re doing you think would be beneficial to the industry, we would love to hear about it. I think the score right now is 40 love. I’m not going to say who’s ahead or who’s behind. But this was a great match.

Ryan Trainer 

Mark, are you saying? Are you saying that you would love a 40? Right? But understand that

Mark Kinsley 

that’s accurate. It’s all accurate. Well, excellent. Hey guys, thanks so much for being on the show today. We really appreciate what you’re doing for the industry, the vision, the the push and the nudge that we need, and it’s really going to be an evolving very fascinating conversation and shift because we’re starting to look at making a mattress that you can then tear apart we’ve been building them like tanks, and you know what guys, I’m not gonna I’m not gonna pull you in down to this rabbit hole. But this really gets into conversation about warranty. Which was early on that was the hot that was the hottest topic whenever I first got into the industry is all about matches warranties. We can save that for another day. Gentlemen, thanks so much for being on the show.

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