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.