I bought a new helmet last winter because my previous one reached the three year mark, the age at which old helmets should be retired because they’re no longer structurally sound if you whack your noggin on the pavement. While I’d never been in a crash that involved my head (just a little one that scarred my right elbow), I wouldn’t want to test old polymers against the hard, cold ground.
And what happened less than a month after I got the new helmet? One very rainy day, my tires had a disagreement with the streetcar tracks on 10th and Stark, and down I went. I hit my head pretty hard on the tracks, lost an earring, broke my headlight, and suffered a mild concussion. A nice man made sure I was ok, then I walked back to the office where I was contracting, called Kathy, and spent the rest of the afternoon watching Indiana Jones movies while I de-concussed.
The label on the inside of my helmet says to dispose of it and get a new one if it’s ever involved in an impact. Hmm. I can see the track dent on the temple. So the real question is not, “should I get a new helmet,” which I already know I should. The question is really, “what in the heck can I do to recycle my old helmet?”
Here’s what I found out by Googling “bike helmet recycling”: I can’t do much. Even the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute says there are few ways to reduce the environmental impact of unusable helmets. Here’s what they have to say:
Summary: We do not know of any recycling programs specifically for bicycle helmets. Some parts can be reused if you take the helmet apart. You may be able to put the outer shell in your regular plastic recycling bin, and you can crumble the EPS foam and use it for packing material or as a soil softener. We have a link to an EPS recycling program for the foam.
How disappointing. Clearly, what we need is someone to develop an environmentally neutral bike helmet! Are you up to that task?