“This bill is killing me, Loni!”

That’s the message Nelson Bercier, president of

Sit ’n Sleep mattress stores, has for state Sen. Loni Hancock, who has authored one of two competing bills that would set up statewide mattress recycling programs.

Both bills aim to solve a long-festering problem: old mattresses being dumped on the side of the road or in an alley, forcing cities to haul them away at taxpayer expense.

Berkeley Democrat Hancock’s bill targets mattress manufacturers, requiring them to fund the recycling program. Even though as a retailer Sit ’n Sleep would not be directly affected by the legislation, Bercier said he expects those costs to be passed on to him and so opposes the bill.

“The Hancock bill would force me to raise my retail prices,” he said.

With 30 stores, Gardena-headquartered Sit ’n Sleep is one of the largest mattress retailers in the Southern California region, thanks to those catchy broadcast ads featuring accountant Irwin telling chain founder Larry Miller, “You’re killing me, Larry!”

Bercier, however, is not opposed to efforts to require mattress recycling and has thrown his support behind a bill sponsored in part by mattress manufacturers and carried by state Sen. Lou Correa, D-Santa Ana. The Correa bill would levy a small fee each time a consumer purchases a mattress and that money would be used to fund a recycling program. It would be similar to the fees collected when consumers purchase new tires or have their motor oil changed.

“The key is that the fee needs to be a line item on the receipt, so the consumer knows there is a recycling program and can feel good about contributing towards it,” Bercier said.

Supporters of Hancock’s bill dismiss the Correa bill as a “poison pill,” designed to stop their bill from getting through the Legislature.

Discarded mattresses

Both bills seek to address a nettlesome problem: people throwing old mattresses to the curb. While many mattress retailers offer to pick up old mattresses when delivering new ones, that has failed to put much of a dent in the problem. According to Hancock’s office, the city of Los Angeles picks up between 120 and 150 mattresses every business day, which translates into more than 30,000 mattresses a year. Sometimes mattresses will sit on sidewalks or in alleys for weeks before being removed.

“Illegally dumped mattresses are a terrible blight on our communities,” Hancock said in a press release introducing her bill, SB 254.