How to Re-use and then Compost your Plastic-Free Hair Ties
At KOOSHOO, our goal is simple: think good, feel good, create good, and share the goodness. What does this mean? Simple: that anything we create and offer to our customers must be good and do better. From the fields of organic cotton to the fair-trade partners we bring on to craft our plastic-free products, you can be assured that your choice in KOOSHOO makes a difference.
We’ve spent quite a bit of time on our blog talking about the benefits of our KOOSHOO Organic, Plastic-free Hair Ties and how, simply by switching to a plastic-free hair tie, you’re creating a more sustainable future. But what about when your hair tie is done being a hair tie? Can it still make a difference?
Tie-ing Up Loose Ends: How to Reuse Your KOOSHOO Organic Hair Ties
Inevitably, the day will come when your KOOSHOO Organic Hair Tie will no longer hold up your hair in quite the same way. Because our ties are designed to last, they typically don’t snap like our commercial counterparts. In fact, our ties are lab-proven to be at least 2 times stronger than the best-selling hair ties in the USA. More likely, you’ll find our hair ties stretch and - over time - lose their elasticity.
We should mention here that your KOOSHOO hair tie breaking down is completely OK, and what is supposed to happen. Because we construct our hair ties with only plant materials (organic cotton and natural rubber), it’s only natural that they will break down. Unlike conventional hair ties, which might snap but will live on forever, our hair ties are meant to be returned - eventually - to the earth, and that’s the way we like it.
Everything that is of this earth eventually returns to it, and our Organic Hair Ties are no different. But don't worry, as our reviews attest, our hair ties are designed to last in your hair, but not landfill.
We’ve designed our hair bands to last as long as possible while in your hair but ultimately, natural materials eventually return to the earth. But fear not! The good news is that because it’s still intact, it becomes useful in a whole new way!
Here are some creative ways we’ve found to stretch extra life out of our hair ties (from real-life hair-tie users!):
- Hold up and direct plant growth (house plants, veggies, herbs...anything that needs some gentle support)
- Add to your regular, household elastics bin. We all probably have a bucket of saved rubber bands but did you know KOOSHOO hair ties can fit the bill too?
- Keep your countertop kombucha (and other ferments) covered
- Secure socks, leggings, and other drawer stragglers
- Add to a children’s creative playset (once they have reached an age where they understand that hair ties are not to be eaten!)
- Tie up electric cords when putting away appliances or tucking cords behind furniture
- Keep reusable food wrappers tightly fit around small items
- Hold together bunches of pens and errant playing cards in your junk drawer
- Organize craft supplies
- Hang Christmas decorations
The Disposability of Plastic-Free Hair Ties
Eventually, though, even our jerry-rigged hair ties must one day come to an end. But first, let’s take a pause and celebrate: your stretched-out hair tie has already (likely) outlived-in-use many a conventional hair tie and that is a big deal!
As we’ve mentioned before on our blog, upwards of 25,000 pounds of conventional hair elastics (the equivalent weight of a city bus!) are lost to the environment every day. One KOOSHOO hair tie’s life extended means that many conventional ones are not impacting the environment.
Already, by choosing KOOSHOO, you’ve achieved a lower footprint.
When the inevitable disposal day comes around, there are two primary options (at this point) for properly disposing of your KOOSHOO hair ties:
- Landfill (put your hair tie in your city’s regular garbage)
- Home composting
Yes, we said it: home composting! If you’re a home composter, or if you have a friend, family member, or work colleague who composts, your hair tie can be composted. There are just a few caveats…
- We recommend cutting your spent ties into smaller pieces to help speed up the biodegradation process (source linked at the bottom).
- You must be patient.
- The results will vary.
Unfortunately, city composting requires products to fully break-down within 3-6 months and while our products are indeed made from plants, as you'll read below, that timeline can't be guaranteed with our current products. You can read more about end-of-life for our hair accessories here.
Home Composting KOOSHOO Organic Hair Ties
Trying to find an end-of-life solution for our ties that wasn’t the landfill, we decided to experiment with our home compost. In the spring of 2020 when we were all figuring out life from home, we placed a KOOSHOO Flat Hair Tie in our compost, mixed it with fruit and veggie scraps, and...waited.
A tangent to our story:
Our Flats are made from 70% organic cotton, and 30% natural tree rubber.
We know from extensive research that organic cotton will generally biodegrade within 3-9 months, depending on soil conditions. There's a lot of evidence for this.
For natural rubber there is less known about the time to decomposition, especially on rubber strands as thin as what we use in our hair ties. Most natural rubber in the world is used for car tires that are thick and therefore take ages to break down (surface area matters a LOT when it comes to decomposition). Based on all the reading we've done (again, a LOT! See the piece we've cited at the bottom of this blog), we estimate that our natural rubber will take anywhere from 1 to 10 years to fully biodegrade. And while 10 years may sound like a long time, when contrasted against the 500+ years it can take for plastic-based materials to break down, 10 years is a miracle!
Now back to our story....
Three months later, we dug it up.
As you can see from the photos above, the organic cotton portion is already decomposing at day 90 - exactly as assumed! About 40% of the organic cotton originally on the product is gone and while the rubber remains intact (as expected), its elasticity has certainly weakened.
Notes taken, we returned our hair tie to the earth for another 4 months and here's what we found:
As you can see now, the organic cotton from the hair tie has all but returned-to-the-earth at day 210, as was expected. The natural rubber, while still mostly in tact, has become to break apart and no longer holds any elasticity. It's clear that the natural rubber is now well on its way to full decomposition.
Four months later (11 months since first buried), we returned to dig up our hair tie once again. This time, despite using a sieve to sift through the dirt, we were unable to find any trace of our little green hair tie. While tiny particles of the natural rubber almost assuredly still existed, they were too fine to identify using a kitchen sieve. This effectively means that within one calendar year, our plant-based hair tie had returned to the plant-matter from which it originated.
This is just one experiment in one backyard compost bin - on Norfolk Island in the South Pacific! Results will vary based on several factors including time, temperature, and geographical location. Because industrial compost facilities often have strict requirements for what is or is not accepted, we don’t recommend putting your spent hair ties in city compost.
What about Recycling?
At this time, we haven’t found a facility that will accept our specific mix of hair tie ingredients (organic cotton + natural rubber). But, as we continue to grow, we look forward to partnering with organizations that can help us get there. Looking into the future, we hope to commission a study on a replicable decomposition analysis in a laboratory setting, plus how to best dispose of our hair ties - recycling included.
The journey to zero waste is never over, but by investigating every possible option for better use, reuse, and disposal of our products, we are challenged to do better and “tie up” any remaining loose ends.
Decomposition of Cotton:
Degradability of Natural Rubber:
Types of Composting and Understanding the Process: