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How do I dispose of water beads safely?

How do I dispose of water beads safely?

If you've got too many water beads on your hands then follow our tips to dispose of them in a responsible manner:

The most important thing you should NOT DO is put them down the drain. If you do this then the beads may be taken out into the environment (and possibly even out to sea) where they will be mistaken for food by wildlife.

The beads may also cause a blockage if you decide to flush them through your wastewater or sewer system. Just check out this poor guy who had Orbeez backing out of his toilet!

Instead, you've got a few options. You can store your water beads for use at a later date (some people advise adding a little salt to stave off mould, or storing in the fridge).

You can shrink your water beads back to (nearly) their original size. It is best to do this out of direct sunlight, as our testing has found that lengthy exposure to sunlight damages the internal polymer structure of the beads thus causing them to break apart. A warm, dry area should suffice. If you have a dehumidifier on hand then that would speed the process up.

If you're not interested in drying the water beads out then you can mix them into the soil in your garden. They will absorb and release water for 3 to 24 months before breaking down (which is actually another one of their uses as this helps to prevent soil from drying out so quickly). Please note that the wide range in life expectancy in the soil is due to whether the beads are mixed deep into the soil (and out of sunlight) or whether they are still in sunlight (the beads will last a much shorter time if in direct sunlight).

Finally, if that doesn't suit you then it is best to put them into the trash. They'll end up in a landfill somewhere (which is a shame!) but due to the desiccating nature of landfills, the water beads will shrink down to almost nothing and only take up a few centimetres of space.

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Note: We originally recommended drying your water beads in sunlight as a means of speeding up the shrinking process. However, our experience has shown that lengthy exposure to sunlight can cause the beads to break down and therefore, we no longer recommend this.

2 comments

  • Hi Alleigh, Sorry, we couldn’t get back to you any earlier. We don’t actually monitor our comment sections and it’s best to send us an email directly (sales@waterbeads.co.nz) to get the fastest response. But to answer your query here, yes they do break down eventually. But, it takes a very long time (anywhere from 3 to 24 months) if you mix them into your garden. The beads will break down in a landfill too, but at a much slower rate (think decades) due to the lack of sunlight and oxygen. It’s a shame for them to end up this way, but, nature always finds a way and we’ll probably see another plastic-eating bacteria like Ideonella sakaiensis evolve to eat them. Let’s hope so!

    Waterbeads NZ
  • So I want to buy these water beads but it sounds like no matter what they will all end up in a landfill (even if it’s just a few centimeters).

    Do they ever break down entirely? And how long does that take?

    I’d appreciate any help you can offer in response to my questions. Thank you.

    Sincerely,
    Alleigh

    Alleigh

Leave a comment


2 comments

  • Hi Alleigh, Sorry, we couldn’t get back to you any earlier. We don’t actually monitor our comment sections and it’s best to send us an email directly (sales@waterbeads.co.nz) to get the fastest response. But to answer your query here, yes they do break down eventually. But, it takes a very long time (anywhere from 3 to 24 months) if you mix them into your garden. The beads will break down in a landfill too, but at a much slower rate (think decades) due to the lack of sunlight and oxygen. It’s a shame for them to end up this way, but, nature always finds a way and we’ll probably see another plastic-eating bacteria like Ideonella sakaiensis evolve to eat them. Let’s hope so!

    Waterbeads NZ
  • So I want to buy these water beads but it sounds like no matter what they will all end up in a landfill (even if it’s just a few centimeters).

    Do they ever break down entirely? And how long does that take?

    I’d appreciate any help you can offer in response to my questions. Thank you.

    Sincerely,
    Alleigh

    Alleigh
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