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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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  • the g. 2 days 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. 5 days ago
    We use them to keep our skis together at the tips and tails when traveling.
  • Karen H. 5 days ago
    My daughter recently purchased a shadowbox and cut an opening in the top, much like a piggy bank slot, so she could add movie stubs and tickets she wanted to collect but put on display. I think this same idea would be good for those who want to save their "event" bands but have a way to organize them into one location and yet have a way to also display them. These shadowboxes can be hung on a wall or sit on a shelf. They would be very colorful on display and appeal to both kids, teens and adults. It would also be a good way to speak with your kids or teens about recycling things they may never have thought about before too! I like a lot of the ideas I have been reading on this post!
  • NANCY H. 10 days ago
    I use them to hang more than one item on a hanger, maybe put a skirt or pants with a suit jacket, camisoles with a blouse, or keep up to about 3 pants in cascade with just 2 wrist bands (one for each hanger). But be careful not to stack too much or you might stress your shelf with too much weight with this quick trick and space saver.
  • William A. 15 days ago
    As one of the earlier posts mentions, this article isn't about typical "rubber" bands, but instead about what I prefer to call plastic or polymer wristbands. First, for the good old original "rubber" or "elastic" bands, most of these are still made of natural latex, which is biodegradable (though it can take a while, depending on disposal conditions. Any that are made from synthetic latex are a different story, as they'll be more durable, and unfortunately it is hard to tell any difference. I do find that natural latex elastic typically has a more pronounced rubber aroma, is more elastic, and does actually become brittle over time, losing elasticity & beginning to breakdown. As for polymer wristbands, yes many will be silicone types & these are indeed not even slightly biodegradable. Many other types are made of a class of materials called "TPE", or thermoplastic elastomers, and these can actually be recycled to some extent. Not easy, but here's my suggestion: (1) The manufacturer can tell you whether this is the material, and (2), if so, place the band into a polypropylene container (yogurt container, etc. marked with a "PP" recycle logo), put the lid on, & recycle it. It will get chopped up & will blend with the recycled PP. Wouldn't it be a lot better if the designers of these things actually planned for end-of-life, took responsibility & provided return options? I recommend we let them know this!!!
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