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Because You Asked

Because You Asked: How Do I Recycle Rubber Wristbands?

By Recyclebank |
The memories will last a lifetime, but how long will the wristband stick around? These knick-knacks present an opportunity to get creative with reuse.

Dear Recyclebank: I have a bunch of rubber wristbands, the ones they give you as identification to let you into an event. Is there any way to recycle these? I don't need 20 of them, and I don't want to just throw them in the trash. –Leslie H.

Dear Leslie: With festival and event season in full swing, many of us are collecting wristbands left and right. You probably also have a few old ones from awareness campaigns like Livestrong lying around your house. While they’re durable and make great memories, as you said, there are only so many you can wear, and only for so long.

If your bands are rubbery, they’re most likely made from silicone rubber. This is a stretchable polymer that has been processed to have many of the same qualities as natural rubber. While its durability makes it a perfect choice for a wristband that can last throughout an event or promote a cause for years, it also means it will most likely end up lying in a landfill for a long time if you toss it out.

Unfortunately, recycling options for your wristbands are about as slim as the bands themselves. While silicone can be reclaimed and recycled, it’s unlikely that your hauler will accept it. Additionally, most of the facilities dedicated to silicone recycling work on a large industrial scale, recycling by the truckload for business clients. Your best bet for traditional recycling is to contact a specialized facility in your area to see if they work with silicone.

If your search is unsuccessful, you can find uses for these bracelets closer to home. They’re a great size and shape to use for leverage when opening jars. Or they’re great for marking cups and glasses at parties so everyone knows which drink is theirs. If you’re feeling crafty, you may even want to experiment with silicone crafting, making molds for new items.

It’s possible that one day these types of wristbands will have another use: helping people to monitor their exposure to chemicals like pesticides and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (a group of compounds that includes 15 likely carcinogens). While it’s too soon to tell if this will be widely effective, studies conducted by Oregon State University have shown that it can be possible to use silicone’s absorptive properties for this purpose.

SOURCES: Chemical & Engineering News 1, 2, U.S. National Library of Medicine

Do you have a wristband collection of your own? Let us know in the comments below if and how you’re planning to downsize it.
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  • K G. 2 months ago
    I get leftover bags of these silicone wristbands every now and then at work.. To add a couple of ideas to the great ones here, this is what I use them for:
    1. Wrap them around coiled extension cords, or Christmas light strings to keep them from tangling. (Works great for short appliance cords too, like the iron, hair dryer, space heater cord, etc—but only when you’re not using it!)
    2. For those who have a lot of cargo type ratchet straps, coil the strap around itself and these bands keep them ready to use quickly and not tangled with each other.
    3. Wrap around pipe/bar/wood poles as a handgrip replacement. I’ve increased grip on a wooden bat handle by sliding several double-looped bands over the 8 inches of grip area.
    4. Temporary outdoor trellis—as I assembled the wood into a grid, I slid these bands into place and worked the next dowel through to make a joint. They’re nearly weatherproof and silicone bands will last a very long time in the sun.
    5. Slipped several around a standard brick for a super quick temporary doorstop that protected the floor and the door from brick scratches.
    Basically I use these anywhere I would want a heavy duty rubberband.. Anyone else thinking of a giant rubberband shooter? :)
  • Cindy W. 5 months ago
    I let my granddaughter have them to play dress up. She loves the different colors. If you want you could glue beads on it.
  • Elaine D. 11 months ago
    Preschoolers love wristbands - I use them as reinforcements for positive behavior!
  • the g. 11 months ago
    america needs to step up it's recycling efforts. with agent orange in the white house it's going to be more of a challenge.
  • Alexis M. 1 year ago
    We use them to keep our skis together at the tips and tails when traveling.
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