Tradition and innovation are the perfect bedfellows for the Yorkshire company about to launch a recyclable mattress, reports NADIA JEFFERSON-BROWN

KEEPING sheep, growing hemp, stewarding a forest and developing a new grade of steel are just part of what goes into making beds with award-winning eco credentials for Yorkshire manufacturer Harrison Spinks.

The 179-year-old firm – which was in the national limelight when it featured in the BBC Two series, Inside the Factory – brings together the best of traditional manufacturing and cutting-edge innovation in its quest to build beds that leave less impact on the environment.

Since the company acquired its farm at Hornington Manor, in Bolton Percy, near York, in 2009 to rear sheep and grow natural materials such as hemp for its mattress fillings, it has been moving towards a sustainable future – and the creation of a recyclable mattress.

The firm, which manufactures luxury mattresses under the Harrison Spinks, Somnus, and Spink & Edgar brands, has also pledged that all new mattresses going into development will be foam and glue-free.

Notching up further green plaudits, the company owns a sustainable forest in Sand Hutton near York which provides wood for its divans, and it has worked with British Steel to develop a lighter spring pad which makes mattresses lighter, which not only uses less raw material but saves on transport costs.

Hemp plays a big role in the business – the company dedicates 150 acres of its farm to flax and hemp crops and processes it all on site before transporting it just 20 miles to its factory in Leeds where it goes into its luxury mattress fillings, replacing non-recyclable materials such as foam.

Growing hemp has other benefits too: for every acre of hemp grown for commercial use, one tonne of CO2 is absorbed. Together with local growers Harrison Spinks produces 300 acres of hemp so 300 tonnes of CO2 are absorbed in the process.

The waste products from hemp processing are shiv and dust, which Harrison Spinks sells as animal bedding and briquettes which are burnt as biofuel. The biofuel is used for the Harrison Spinks farm’s biomass boiler and the remaining briquettes are sold externally, including to a local power station which uses them as a coal power substitute.

Simon Spinks, managing director and part of the fifth-generation family business, said: “For the last ten years our core business objective has been trying to change the way the world sleeps. We’ve been relentless in looking for more sustainable ways of working so we can look after our planet for future generations. It is for this reason we have made the pledge to not develop any new mattresses containing foam or glue and to eliminate foam from any existing product by 2020.

“Because of the dangers of foam and the negative effect it has on the environment we use sustainable fillings and grow nearly 800 tonnes of natural fibre fillings for our mattresses each year. By farming our own materials and manufacturing our own components we have been able to save more than 1,300 tonnes of CO2 every year.

“Later this year we will launch a fully sustainable, glue-free spring system which will be a global first. What this means is that we can produce a mattress that is 100 per cent recyclable and we can help reduce some of the 7.5 million beds that end up in landfill every year. This will revolutionise the industry as we know it.

“We’re committed to doing the right thing for a healthy lifestyle and a sustainable future so we can all rest easy at night.”

Earlier this year, BBC Two's Inside the Factory went behind the scenes at Harrison Spinks, with presenters Gregg Wallace and Cherry Healy gaining access to its state-of-the-art factory which makes 600 beds every day.

Simon said: "To be chosen to be part of a programme as prestigious as Inside The Factory is a huge honour for Harrison Spinks. Our employees are all incredibly proud of their workplace and to shine a spotlight on the amazing time-honoured skills and traditional bed-making methods that we nurture during such a brilliant slot on the BBC is definitely a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."

Presenter Gregg Wallace followed the production of pocket-sprung mattresses, from the arrival of hard steel through to soft bedding heading out for dispatch.

He learnt how lengths of metal are stretched into thin wire and coiled into springs which are placed into individual pockets, and how the mattresses are designed to wick away moisture from bodies with the help of natural fibres like hemp and wool.

Harrison Spinks partnered with British Steel to develop a new grade of steel rod which allows a finer gauge wire than traditional wire-drawing methods. This produces lighter spring pads and results in a weight saving of 54 per cent of steel per mattress compared with those with standard components. This reduces transport costs and uses less raw material. Harrison Spinks has also opened a wire-drawing line at British Steel’s plant in Scunthorpe which means that steel waste from the wire drawing process can be immediately recycled on-site.

Meanwhile Cherry Healy visited the company's sheep farm to see how wool is shorn and discovered its anti-bacterial and fire-retardant properties, which make it perfect for filling a mattress.

Historian Ruth Goodman investigated the origins of the modern mattress. She lay down on a straw stuffed sack, and learned how steel transformed our bedtime habits, first with the ‘innerspring’ and then with the more comfortable ‘pocket-spring’ technology, which Harrison Spinks has adapted and made its own.

The company has been honoured for its ground-breaking work. It has received the Queen's Award for Enterprise: Sustainable Development in recognition of its latest achievements.

The Queen’s representative, Lord Lieutenant of West Yorkshire, Ed Anderson, visited staff at Harrison Spinks' new £2.5million Innovation Centre in Beeston, Leeds, to present the accolade.

The company which has a team of 600 in Leeds believes it is the only furniture maker to have won five Queen’s Awards and the only specialist bedmaker to win the Sustainable Development award twice.

Simon said: “We are delighted and humbled to have welcomed Mr Ed Anderson to our Harrison Spinks headquarters to receive our third current Queen’s Award. Having seen the factory, he was blown away by the amount we do here on site. In recent years we have invested significantly in areas that have made our business more sustainable and vertically integrated – including weaving and wire drawing – and are proud to be leading the way and setting the standard in the furniture-making industry.”

The bedmaker has previously been granted awards for Innovation and International Trade in 2018 and now is one of just six companies awarded the prize for Sustainable Development in 2019.