One of Foam Factory, Inc.’s most popular offerings are our custom-cut cushions. Customers can bring in old, flat, worn-out foam, and leave with brand-new, comfortable, and supportive cushions, stuffed with the foam of their choice. It’s a fast, easy, and hassle-free way of getting more bang for your buck from your furniture.
Occasionally, customers will want the old foam from their cushions back, intending to use them for things like projects around the house. The vast majority of customers though, about 80 percent, have no need for their old foam, and it certainly wouldn’t be very good customer service to tell them they need to take it with them!
So, with all the old cushions Foam Factory takes in, many people ask, “What do you do with all that old foam?”
Allow us to explain!
First off, with the health and sanitation issues presented by used cushioning products, Foam Factory does not re-sell, re-shape, or re-use any of the used foam products customers leave with us. Every product Foam Factory sells is new, never-used foam. Even if health issues were irrelevant, hypothetically speaking, old foam is broken down and inconsistent, so it wouldn’t make sense to re-sell it anyway.
Secondly, we don’t toss old foam in the garbage either. One of the neat things about foam is that it’s incredibly versatile in terms of reusability. If we cut a foam mattress and have a chunk left over, we can turn that piece into many different items, from pillows, to bolsters, to desk cushions. And the tiny scraps left from that piece can be shredded and turned into pillow stuffing. There’s always another step for brand-new polyurethane foam, no matter how small the piece. Of course, used cushions aren’t brand-new foam, but there are ways for companies like ours to recycle these materials as well, keeping them from winding up in landfills.
So, if Foam Factory doesn’t use old cushioning, and we don’t throw it away, what do we do with it?
There is a both a short answer and a long answer to that question. The short answer is that we compact used foam products, along with odds, ends, scraps, and otherwise unusable materials. These are purchased by industrial foam manufacturers to turn into bonded carpet padding. However, the longer answer, and how we do it, is much more interesting!
When we receive old cushions, they are collected and brought to a special compacting machine. This machine, called a baler, only performs one task, but, as you would imagine, performs it incredibly well. Along with scraps of new foam, old foam and cushions are compacted by a plate exerting 54 tons of pressure. If you’ve ever seen how squishy foam is when you press down on it with your hand, imagine how much it gets squished by a baler pressing down with the weight of about nine elephants! Suffice to say, the baler can compress foam to a significant degree.
After the baler has reached capacity, the bale of compacted foam is removed, which can weigh anywhere between 1,000 and 1,500 pounds. The bales, as you see them, represent 15 to 20 percent of the original size of the materials before they were compressed. Foam Factory typically produces bales around 4.5′ wide x 4.5′ long x 3.5′ tall; pretty big bricks of foam! Bales are held in place by seatbelt-like straps that are strong enough to keep the foam from expanding, and wide enough to keep from slicing into the foam due to the outward pressure. Thinner materials will stretch from the pressure, until they snap.
The next step is delivery to manufacturers. Companies who produce specialty bonded foam products will buy these bales of foam with the intent of re-purposing the materials. After receiving bulk foam bales, companies shred the material, and through a process that varies company to company, bond the shredded foam using adhesives and heat to create an ultra-dense, ultra-strong material called rebond foam.
Rebond is most commonly recognized as carpet padding, due to its firmness and strength. It is also used in sound deadening applications, and even in specialty seating applications where people need extra-firm support.
And just like that, your cushions have gone from your couch to your carpet, in a recycling path designed to get the longest life out of open-cell foam products!