Rest Easier Knowing Your Bed's Improved Carbon Footprint

Nornnorn is the world's first circular economy-based mattress subscription service

Nophol Techaphangam used his family’s bedding company as a launch pad for his own enterprise called Nornnorn, touted as the world's first circular economy-based mattress subscription service. It was aimed at helping small hospitality companies with limited budgets provide quality mattresses and at the same time deal with the problem of disposed mattresses that end up as land-fill. He was selected as a partner of Climate Neutral Now, a UN Climate Change initiative that aims to achieve a climate neutral world by 2050. 

What is a circular economy and how does Nornnorn fit into this concept?

A circular economy is a systemic approach to economic development designed to eliminate waste and ensure that all natural resources, once extracted from the earth, are used as productively as possible and for as long as possible. In a circular economy, products, equipment and infrastructure are designed to consume as little resource input as possible and be long-lasting, shareable, reusable, repairable and recyclable. In addition, waste materials and energy resulting from the manufacture or use of one product should become the input for the manufacturing and operation of another. In other words, nothing should ever go to waste. This regenerative approach stands in contrast with the traditional linear economy, which employs the ‘take, make, dispose’ mode of production and consumption that leads to the creation of unproductive waste materials and energy as a result.

According to Accenture, there are five main business models that can be used to make our economy circular, namely circular supply-chain, recovery & recycling, product life-extension, and sharing platform and product as a service. As a platform providing mattress subscription (rental) service, Nornnorn has put into practice a product-as-a-service business model that has enabled hospitality businesses to have access to brand-new, high quality mattresses from leading manufacturers for between five and ten years per subscription cycle, without having to invest in owning the products. Moreover, we have also incorporated the recovery-and-recycling model into our service by planning to collect the used mattresses back from our clients at the end of every subscription free of charge. Once retrieved, the used mattresses will be disassembled and their components recycled or upcycled.

We have been serving hospitality businesses in Thailand and Indonesia since late 2018. Recently we also started providing our service to home-use customers in Bangkok.

Why is it important for businesses to address this issue of waste?

The traditional linear approach to economic development has led to the over-exploitation of natural resources and the creation of untold quantities of waste, which have polluted the environment and contributed to climate change. Since our planet contains finite natural resources, such continual over-exploitation is inherently unsustainable. For example, it has been estimated by the National Bed Federation that in 2017 in the UK alone around 7.3 million mattresses weighing a total of 181,500 tonnes were thrown away. That amounts to 0.8% of the total household waste in the country. At least tens of millions more mattresses are disposed of every year in Southeast Asia. Most in our region and the developing world end up in landfills, being fly-tipped or incinerated and thus polluting the environment.

How is Nornnorn growing its business at the moment? How do you see your future post-pandemic?  

Now that the tourism and hospitality industries and the wider economy are expected to begin recovering from the effects of Covid-19 in the third quarter of this year, the demand for our service has returned. If anything, that demand is even stronger now because many businesses are cash-strapped and want to conserve as much cash as possible by not investing in fixed assets. In addition, the increased awareness of the general public regarding the urgent need for us as a society to work together to tackle climate change has led to rising pressure for all businesses to be more environmentally sustainable. Hence we are in the process of raising capital to scale up our venture in anticipation of even greater demand post-Covid. 

At the same time we are also about to ramp up our R&D efforts. In particular, we will shortly start working with Thailand’s Technology and Informatics Institute for Sustainability (TIIS) to approximate the amount of greenhouse gas emissions and waste our business will save over the coming years, and we will work with the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT) and the University of Cambridge to maximise the economic value of the polyurethane foams that we will eventually recover from our used mattresses through upcycling.