Bike helmets should be recyclable

bike-helmets

Bike helmets headed to the landfill

Cleaning the unusable reusable bag bits out of my closet started something (see my last post if you don’t know what I’m talking about). After I tidied one shelf, the rest looked like a disaster so I couldn’t just stop and walk away. I kept at it and I’m happy to say that one side of the closet has been fully cleaned and sorted. Will wonders never cease!

You wouldn’t believe some of the things I found in there. (Did I mention that hoarding runs on both sides of my family?) Two of these things were bike helmets.

I don’t know about you, but there are certain things that I think I should only have to buy once in my lifetime. And in my mind, bike helmets fall into that category. So imagine my surprise when I went biking the last time and bits of gray matter got all over the backseat of my car. Disintegrating bike helmets, what?!

Now to be fair, I don’t go biking that often, approximately once every four years. Maybe I’m a wimp, but I could never get past the crotch pain. Even after purchasing a fancy gel seat and bike shorts with strategically placed padding, the post-ride soreness was too much. But I kept my helmet around so I had it when I needed it.

Did it disintegrate from lack of use? After doing some research on the internet, it turns out that bike helmets don’t last long. In fact, manufacturers recommend that you replace your helmet every five years. Is this a real safety issue or a marketing ploy? I’m not sure, but I had to laugh since I owned my bike helmet for more than 15 years when I noticed it was falling apart.

Even though both my husband’s and my bike helmet were no longer functional, I kept them around because I didn’t know what to do with them. It seemed horrible to just throw them away, what a waste! And then they sat there and sat there, until I came across them again during my cleaning / decluttering frenzy. I could no longer ignore the bike helmets.

I went online to search for recycling options and was disappointed to discover that few exist. The best option I could find involved breaking apart the helmet with a hammer and then if your local recycling program accepts foam, you can throw the gray foam part in the recycling bin. (The City of Los Angeles actually does recycle foam, but me, a bike helmet and a hammer did not sound like a good idea. I love the earth, but I also love my thumbs and fingers and know my weaknesses when it comes to hand-eye coordination.)

Even if you successfully disassemble the helmet, it’s not guaranteed that you can recycle the plastic shell because most companies don’t label whether it’s recyclable. And so with a heavy heart, but all my fingers in tact, I threw the helmets in the garbage.

It’s unacceptable that bike helmet manufacturers don’t provide a way to recycle a product that lasts only five years. If you are a recreational biker and live to the age of 70, you will have to buy approximately 10 helmets as an adult, not to mention all the helmets you have to buy as a kid when your head is still growing. Multiply 10 by 46.5 million, the number of bicyclists in the U.S. (an average of the two estimates I could find), and that’s 465 million helmets just in the U.S. alone! That’s a lot of plastic and foam headed to landfills.

As a consumer, I would be happy to pay an extra two to five dollars on the front end to help facilitate a manufacturer-based recycling program. I would also be happy to pay for shipping the helmets if necessary. Just somebody please start a recycling program and save the earth from the bike helmet scourge! I think I will write Giro a letter because I’m that annoyed. End of rant, thank you for reading.

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