Can You Recycle Rubber Bands? (Don’t Make These Mistakes)

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Jean Richardson

Jean Richardson is a lover of knowledge, in all forms. He has spent over 15 years as a high school teacher, instructing students in history, geography, mathematics, and more.

Rubber bands are one of the most popular accessories and items that are used for both business and at home as they come in different shapes, colors, and sizes.

However, how do you dispose of them? Are they recyclable? Continue reading the article below to find out this answer and more!

Can You Recycle Rubber Bands?

Rubber bands are not recyclable as most are made out of a mix of rubber and synthetic items. Furthermore, the synthetic materials used in the production process are usually too small to separate in the production line. However, rubber bands made out of 100 percent rubber are compostable.

Read on to learn everything you need to know about the different options to reuse or compost your rubber bands!

Can You Recycle Rubber Bands?

Most rubber bands are made from a mix of natural rubber that is extracted from the rubber tree and synthetic materials, such as sulfur, pigments of color, and chemicals to adjust the elasticity. 

Furthermore, the production process entails manufacturing large pieces of rubber into tubes and eventually feeding them into a machine that slices them into rubber bands.

Additionally, since they are made from a mix of natural and synthetic ingredients, these ingredients are too small to separate and will cause problems during the recycling process.

Even rubbers made out of 100 percent rubber are not recyclable. As a result, you should only put your rubber bands into the general waste bag.

However, just because rubber bands are not recyclable does not mean that they can not be reused or repurposed.

For example, you can use your old rubber bands to reseal bags or jars, tie up your hair or headphones, or use them in your home office, if you have one. 

For practical purposes, you can also use them to hold many things together.

In addition to this, the United States Postal Service (USPS) and schools around the country use rubber bands for a variety of purposes. 

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In fact, the USPS is the largest commercial purchaser of rubber bands.

So next time when you go to the post office, you can bundle them up and drop them off at any mailbox or physical location.

Are Rubber Bands Compostable?

Are Rubber Bands Compostable?

While rubber bands made out of 100 percent rubber tree are compostable, most ones used for commercial purposes are made out of a mix of natural rubber and synthetic materials.

Furthermore, the rubber bands made out of a mix of different materials are not as easily compostable and may take decades to break down.

Additionally, when talking about the biodegradability and the environmental impact of rubber, it is essential to distinguish between natural and synthetic rubber. 

This is because synthetic rubber is not biodegradable and has significantly more negative effects on the environment. 

This is concerning, as it is estimated that up to 70 percent of rubber used today is made from synthetic manufacturing.

Furthermore, there are differences in recyclability, biodegradability, and the environmental impact of natural and synthetic rubber.

Type of rubber Recyclability Biodegradability Environmental impact
Natural No Yes (compostable) Low
Synthetic No No Medium

Overall, while neither types of rubber are recyclable, natural rubber is more environmentally friendly because it comes from sustainable sources and it is also biodegradable.

Just because fully natural rubber bands will decompose does not mean that the process will not take a long time.

Furthermore, natural rubber can take weeks or months to start decomposing, and the process can be slowed down if additives are used. 

Therefore, you should only throw away your rubber bands into a compost bin if you can not find another use for them.

Additionally, throwing your rubber bands into a compost bin with other items may slow down the biodegradation process.

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As a result, if you do want to throw away your rubber bands, you should perhaps consider getting a separate compost bin and use it for material that takes longer to decompose.

How To Reuse And Upcycle Rubber Bands?

As mentioned above, just because rubber bands are not recyclable or easily compostable does not mean that you can not reuse them and prolong their life. 

Furthermore, because of their widespread use, there are many different purposes for which you can use them, both at home and for businesses.

At home, consider using rubber bands to seal down your bags, jars, and lids, or you can also use them to keep pens and pencils together. 

Additionally, if you want your liquid soap to last longer, you can wrap the base of the pump with a rubber band to reduce the amount of soap that comes out.

Also, all schools, including universities, use rubber bands for a variety of reasons, especially in libraries and offices. 

In fact, they are some of the largest consumers of rubber bands that need them on a continuous basis, often for holding books and materials together. 

Therefore, you should consider donating your unused rubber bands to schools instead of throwing them away.

Finally, the USPS consumes rubber bands more than any other institution. 

Each year, they issue almost 2 million pounds of rubber bands, and they are mostly used by letter carriers to bundle mail together and keep office supplies together. 

In addition to schools, the USPS is probably the best place to donate your rubber bands.

Are Rubber Bands Bad For The Environment?

Rubber bands that are made fully or mostly out of rubber trees are environmentally friendly because rubber trees are a sustainable crop, and the production process is not too harmful. 

Additionally, many plantations around the world harvest the crop, and the liquid that is extracted from the tree causes no harm to the tree or the environment.

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However, rubber bands made out of synthetic rubber and other synthetic materials are not as good for the environment. 

This is because synthetic rubber bands are made using petrochemicals, and they go through a chemical production process, which generates lots of carbon.

One thing to keep in mind is that some countries are clearing out native vegetation to make room for the harvesting of rubber trees, which are used to make natural rubber bands. 

As a result, the natural habitat and the plant and animal ecosystems can be affected by the production and harvesting of rubber trees.

Overall, if you are purchasing rubber bands and you want to minimize the environmental impact, you should try to purchase only the ones that are made out of fully natural rubber.

Furthermore, because of their long lifespan and reusability, they are more environmentally friendly than other items that are used for similar purposes.

To learn more, you can also read our posts on whether you can recycle Post-it notes, whether you can recycle business cards, and whether you can recycle gift bags.

Conclusion

Rubber bands that are made from 100% natural rubber trees are recyclable, however, the rubber bands that are mixed with synthetic materials are not and can be detrimental to ecosystems if recycled. 

Although, unlike other materials, rubber bands can be reused or upcycled for a variety of uses. If you no longer need them around your home or your office, consider donating them to your local school or postal office, as they will certainly use them. 

Author

  • Jean Richardson is a lover of knowledge, in all forms. He has spent over 15 years as a high school teacher, instructing students in history, geography, mathematics, and more.

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