When the USS Enterprise returns home to Norfolk, Va., from its final deployment, among the first items to be stripped from the aircraft carrier will be the thousands of mattresses its sailors have worn out over the past few years.
But unlike those on other ships the Navy has decommissioned, these mattresses won't be heading to a local landfill following the Dec. 1 inactivation.
The Navy will send the mattresses to a company in South Carolina as part of a pilot program to break the mattresses down and recycle the springs and foam for other uses. The Navy says paying Nine Lives Mattress Recycling to take the Enterprise's mattresses off its hands is about $12,000 cheaper than paying for them to go to a local landfill.
"It had to be cheaper, even if it's greener, in order for us to want to do business," said Gregory Jeanguenat, manager of Naval Station Norfolk's Integrated Solid Waste and Recycling Site.
The Enterprise will be the third Navy ship to have its mattresses recycled as part of the program, which was inspired by similar programs in the Army. The amphibious transport dock USS Mesa Verde and the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln had mattresses ready for disposal removed in the past few weeks. Removing the Lincoln's mattresses was a particular accomplishment because aircraft carriers are the Navy's largest ships, with more than 6,000 sailors on board.
"It's my pride and joy. I'm absolutely excited that this happened," Jeanguenat said. "It's the largest chunk of mattress recycling in the U.S. military."
Jeanguenat hopes the program will expand to other ships, barracks and Navy hotels in the area. In southeast Virginia, which is home to the world's largest naval base, the Navy buys about 25,000 mattresses a year. They typically have an eight-year life span.