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Martin Auerbach, Managing Director of Fachverband Matratzen-Industrie, on circular economy

Double mindfulness" is finding its way into bedrooms. Mindfulness of oneself and mindfulness of the environment. Expert Martin Auerbach explains to us in an interview how manufacturers are facing up to these challenges. 

Jul 05 2021

How will the importance of beds and sleep systems change in the future? 

Martin Auerbach: Our industry is very strong in constantly reinventing what at first glance seems to be an inconspicuous product like the mattress and developing it further with creative ideas. The overriding goal is, in the truest sense of the word, to provide the basis for restful sleep. 

Because with all further developments and innovations, it is important to me personally to emphasise that at the core it will always be about this: Restful sleep is a vital process; in this respect, humans are hardly any different from other creatures and this will not change in the future. 

Kitchens and bathrooms in particular are becoming smarter and smarter. What future does a smart bedroom have? Or does smart technology have no relevance in the bedroom? 

Martin Auerbach: Smart technologies will certainly not stop at the bedroom door. For example, they can help to include the enormously important individual factors in a more targeted way when choosing a suitable mattress (for example, through ergonomics checks) or to monitor certain processes during sleep. 

For the best possible sleep quality, however, it will also be essential in the future to communicate to consumers how important good sleep advice is. Investing in a sleep system that is tailored to them is also an investment in good lying and well-being. 

What are the trends in mattress manufacturing? After a cold foam phase 10 years ago, innerspring was back in vogue and box spring beds. What's next? 

Martin Auerbach: Here I pick up on what I said before: The biggest challenge at the moment is to deliver the functionality of sleep systems and thus optimal lying characteristics for all needs, while at the same time developing sustainable, recyclable products. From the customer's point of view, we propagate "double mindfulness": mindfulness for oneself through healthy sleep and mindfulness in dealing with global resources through recyclable products. 

What does "recyclable" mean? What do you associate with the concept of the circular economy and what does that mean for the mattress industry? 

Martin Auerbach: Regarding the first part of your question, I think it is important to clarify the term: "Circular economy" is often (mis)understood in Germany as waste management that is as environmentally compatible as possible, which in the best case should result in recycling. Of course we need solutions for the mattresses of today, because they have a lifespan of around ten years and will therefore occupy us for a long time to come. But we are concerned with a whole new generation of products that are managed in closed material cycles. That's why we talk about "true circular economy". 

When different components are joined together in mattresses, it makes it more difficult to break them down into their original materials. I expect a trend reversal here. The first examples on the market show a development towards monomaterials or modular products. Other trends are bio-based raw materials and the use of recycled materials. 

What impact do sustainability and the circular economy of mattresses, beds and bedrooms have on our sleep, the trade, and market development? 

Martin Auerbach: Product developers have to rethink mattresses. The first question is: "From which materials and with which technology can I build my product so that it stays in the cycle?" The next step is to use this as a basis to achieve the familiar product characteristics that retailers and consumers value. 

Companies that focus on circular products now - and by that I mean manufacturers and retailers - will increase their competitiveness, innovation and growth potential in the medium to long term. A product that remains a recyclable material at the end of its life can increase profitability and at the same time provide a counterpoint to the current shortage of raw materials.

Would you then say that these new products in our bedrooms are a growth market? Are environmental protection and resource conservation already relevant demand criteria today? 

Martin Auerbach: I am sure that we are dealing with a growth market. In addition to recyclable sleeping systems, a whole range of innovations and new business models are in demand. For example, "traceability" of products; solutions to make sustainable products transparent, assessable and comparable. 

Transparency is also a prerequisite for consumers to actively choose "green products". The demand-driven pressure for retailers may still be manageable, but with Fridays for Future at the latest, a generation is growing up that will not leave its green conscience at the checkout and will also demand appropriate products when furnishing their bedrooms. We are on the verge of great changes and innovations! Some mattress manufacturers have "come good" and are now setting standards. Others will follow, because there is no alternative to change. 

What role does cooperation in the Textile + Sun Protection Competence Centre play for your association? 

Particularly at the meta-level, we are all facing similar challenges in the "Circular Economy Project" and can achieve far more together than each association can on its own. And even when it comes to sector-specific challenges, it's worth looking beyond the end of our noses. We can learn from each other, for example through best practice examples. 

For example, we use our circular economy working group and a series of events for this purpose. In a few days, we will be launching our new online platform on the circular economy, which focuses on networking and sharing knowledge. 

About the Fachverband Matratzen-Industrie e.V.: As an association of leading German industrial manufacturers of mattresses and bed systems, we currently have 17 full members and represent a market share of around two thirds. Our members also include companies from the supply industry. Beyond their own company interests, well-known, renowned companies work together to make the general public aware of the great importance of good sleep as part of a health-conscious lifestyle. In addition, we are working on uniform standards for the sector, which will make it easier for the industry, the trade and the consumer to find their way around. Together with the Association of the German Home Textile Industry (Heimtex) and the Association of Interior Privacy and Sun Protection (ViS), we form the Textile + Sun Protection Competence Centre based in Wuppertal (www.matratzenverband.de).

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