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A user-friendly portal to recycle mattresses sustainably




Every year, many discarded mattresses are incinerated, when they can also be recycled. However, proper recycling requires cooperation between manufacturers, importers, mattress vendors, collectors, municipalities and recycling companies. Not only that, the system, similar to that of a deposit or the recycling fee for white goods, also needs to be facilitated. Automation and user self-service play a major role in this. After all, it must be possible to arrange the registration of mattresses and financial handling in a smart way and at a central location. And in such a way that all parties involved are happy to use it. A task that is right up Harborn's street!

Forging a recycling plan

It all starts in 2019, when the government was already looking for a sustainable solution for the annual mountain of discarded mattresses. The deadline to take action was approaching, and Royal CBM, the industry association for interior construction and furniture industry, receives the tender for the assignment. Together with the five largest mattress manufacturers, CBM establishes the MRN Foundation, where MRN stands for Mattress Recycling Netherlands. The foundation devises the scheme, to ensure that more mattresses are collected. And they need a digital environment for this, in which proper financial settlement - based on a newly introduced waste management fee - is essential. To do this, they were looking for a party with experience and expertise in automation. Harborn convinces with a proof of concept, where the team shows its ability to convert MRN's wishes and requirements into a user-friendly portal. The scheme devised by MRN was declared universally binding by the Ministry of I&W in 2021. This makes the waste management fee for mattresses mandatory, increasing the pressure to put the portal live before 2022.

Technology & partnerships

  • AWS
  • Serverless programming
  • CDN (Content Delivery Network)
  • VueJS
  • Wordpress


Old mattresses stacked onto each other

All the ingredients for a user-friendly portal

The portal brings together various user groups and processes. As a central system, it has to meet the demands of MRN, but also the requirements of the government to assess the scheme. Additionally, the threshold for recycling must remain as low as possible, for all parties involved. After all, besides the financial incentive, ease of use is a major pillar for the success of the scheme. On the portal, mattress manufacturers and importers indicate how many mattresses are coming onto the market and pay a contribution for each mattress. While municipalities and recycling companies are compensated for the costs they make to collect and recycle the mattresses. It means keeping track of both the numbers of mattresses and tonnage of material, and making the proof simple to enter and easy to read. Last but not least, a link to Exact accounting software is required to ensure correct and convenient financial handling.

Working flexibly with demos

The team began building the portal while waiting for final approval from the ministry. The foundation of the portal was developed without presenting the visible result. In order to streamline the process of bringing together different parties, client MRN requested more transparency. To make the process more tangible and to continuously test whether the portal met user expectations, the team provided a demo after every sprint. Among other things, this resulted in the development of a smart import and export function. In just a few clicks, users can submit their quarterly declaration.

White sheets

Linking with Exact accounting software

Handling these submitted declarations required a software link with Exact, as the invoices are generated from there. These invoices contain data from the registration and a calculation based on the information entered by the user. We worked closely with Exact software developers to ensure that this combination of data could be processed smoothly by the programme. For example, Exact doesn’t generate statements for credit invoices, therefore we built a workaround, so that this too ends up neatly in the administration.

Laptop with MRN portal

A high-quality, scalable and accessible solution

Since going live, the system has undergone continuous automatic visual testing to ensure quality. The portal is mainly used intensively around the quarterly declaration. That’s why a serverless backend was used, which means it is scalable. So, MRN only pays for the data actually used: The perfect solution for both busy and quiet times. It was also important to keep it as simple as possible. This is reflected in various parts of the portal. For instance, the input fields “remember” where you left off, only the quarters applicable to the user are visible and the declaration process consists of only two steps. Super user-friendly, without all the red tape feared by entrepreneurs!

Illustration of machine clamping onto a mattress

Towards a fully comprehensive system

Now, one year after the launch, more than 450 manufacturers, importers, municipalities and collectors are already using the portal. The ease of use also gives MRN an overview. The fact that users can submit a zero declaration within a few clicks means that even very small quantities are properly registered. This minimises the risk of leaving mattresses out of the picture. Within five years, MRN wants to move towards a fully comprehensive circular system, where no mattress is left unregistered. In a roadmap session with MRN, we determined the functionalities that will contribute to this. For example, in the latest release, the portal will include a Business Intelligence dashboard, showing the current number of recycled mattresses and the payments for them. With the help of Power BI, we provide data visualisation, that gives a clear insight into the impact users are making together. Everything to be as transparent as possible. Currently, 1.5 million mattresses have already passed through the portal, of which over 750,000 have been recycled. MRN is also working on a campaign, so that even more collectors and municipalities can find the way to the user-friendly recycling portal!

Laptop with login page to the MRN portal

Also need such a user-friendly solution?

Are you looking for a digital system for registering and implementing a smart scheme? Or an environment where users can carry out parts of your processes themselves? Portals come in many shapes and sizes. Harborn is happy to think with you, about building your own environment, automating processes or other digital solutions. If you have any questions, please contact Harm-Jan, project lead on this case.

+316 4126 4306harmjan.roskam@harborn.com