SIFE Students Start ‘Spring Back’ Business to Recycle Mattresses, Create Jobs

Belmont SIFE team partners with Belmont Church’s ‘Isaiah 58’ ministry on program to employ formerly incarcerated and homeless

Spring Back Nashville's Bryan King and Ron Harness break down a mattress.

Jan. 18, 2012 Update: Spring Back Recycling made national news with this story on NPR.

In partnership with the Isaiah 58 ministry at Belmont Church, the Belmont University Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) team is making a difference in the lives of a group of Nashville’s homeless and formerly incarcerated via a rather unusual means—recycling mattresses.

The non-profit, Spring Back Recycling, launched “Spring Back Nashville” just over six months ago and already more than 1,700 mattresses have been disassembled and recycled. The Belmont SIFE students spent a full year developing the business model for Spring Back, analyzing operations, accounting, marketing, legal contracts and safety procedures. Belmont Church’s Isaiah 58 ministry thereafter partnered with the team, providing an available facility, equipment, as well as an eager and capable workforce for the start-up business. Isaiah 58’s School of Life ministry is a residential program that helps formerly incarcerated men get back on their feet. With Spring Back Nashville, the men are disassembling old mattresses into scrap metal, cotton and foam—more than 85 percent of each mattress can be fully recycled.

Dr. John Gonas, associate professor of finance and SIFE advisor at Belmont, said, “I’m amazed that the Belmont students have created such a sustainable, scalable and economically viable business that blesses the community with a solid employment opportunity while simultaneously keeping so much recyclable waste out of landfills.”

Ron Harness, who works with the Isaiah 58 ministry at Belmont Church, added, “Due to an extensive life change, I’ve needed to start over both personally and professionally. Spring Back has given me the ideal opportunity to begin rebuilding my life with steady income, growth in education, relationships through students, faculty and co-workers, and confidence of person by being able to express my talents and strengths both individually and corporately.  I am truly blessed to be a recipient of kindnesses and generosities shared by Belmont’s College of Business Administration, SIFE and Spring Back.”

SIFE students Rami Nogal and Eric Taft have been actively involved in developing the Spring Back business model.

At the base of Spring Back’s economic model is scrap buyers paying for the raw materials that come from the disassembly while local citizens, mattress retailers and institutions pay a small premium of their landfill tipping fees to Spring Back, knowing it provides a more environmentally friendly option to get rid of used or damaged inventory. Presently, B. Miller Recycling and Southeastern Recycling are purchasing metal, foam and cotton/wool blends in baled form after disassembly.

Retailer Mattresses Unlimited is currently sending used mattresses from its 16 area stores to Spring Back for recycling. In addition, Spring Back has partnered with Metro Davidson County Public Works, the Williamson County Recycling Program, Earthsavers LLC, Thriftsmart, Mattress Warehouse of Nashville and Gray’s Disposal to present the option of mattress recycling to their citizens and customers.

Belmont SIFE works with local, national and international community partners to develop ethical and environmentally sustainable business models that create lasting economic and social change. Now in its seventh year of existence, Belmont SIFE has 40+ students involved and has partnered with numerous Nashville organizations, including 147 Million Orphans, African Leadership and Magdalene/Thistle Farms. In 2010, the Belmont University SIFE team won its first SIFE USA National Championship and competed against national champions from 39 nations for the SIFE World Cup, ultimately placing third in the world.

Due to its success to date, Belmont SIFE intends to license the full Spring Back Recycling business model to other non-profits in U.S. cities starting in 2012.


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Ranked No. 5 in the Regional Universities South category and named for the seventh consecutive year as one of the top “Up-and-Comer” universities by U.S. News & World Report, Belmont University consists of approximately 7,300 students who come from every state and more than 25 countries. Committed to being a leader among teaching universities, Belmont brings together the best of liberal arts and professional education in a Christian community of learning and service. The University’s purpose is to help students explore their passions and develop their talents to meet the world’s needs, With more than 80 areas of undergraduate study, 22 master’s programs and five doctoral degrees, there is no limit to the ways Belmont University can expand an individual's horizon.

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