Are Orbeez Biodegradable?
Orbeez are toys that have achieved popularity among children, mainly because of their ability to grow when in contact with water. They are popularly known as gel beads and also serve an ornamental function at home or in the office, as they are able to decorate the spaces.
But the question that brings us here is whether Orbeez are safe or biodegradable. The first thing you should know is that they have a fairly short shelf life even though they can be reused. In addition, they include elements that are toxic to the environment, so they require a thorough process to dispose of them. Here we tell you how.
What are orbeez?
Basically, Orbeez are small gel bubbles that grow considerably when in contact with water. That's exactly what surprises small children, who, amazed by the effects of the beads with water, clamor to have them at home to manipulate them.
The beads can increase the volume of their diameter up to 150 times, but they generate a better effect when they are introduced in a bucket of warm water and without any extra element. The purer the water you use with the Orbeez, the more they grow.
But what is it that makes these gel pearls grow as if by magic? Simple, they are products made from superabsorbent polymer, which includes in its composition other elements such as water, sodium hydroxide, acrylic acid and color pigmentation. The latter is the reason why there are small spheres of different colors.
The good news is that Orbeez are safe toys for little ones to play with. If for some reason your child swallows one of these little balls, don't panic. Because of their soft texture, they will pass through the digestive tract without complications.
However, it is advisable to be very careful and supervise every time your child comes into contact with these objects. Even so, seek professional medical help if you notice any reaction after working with them.
But are they really environmentally friendly?
First of all, it is important to remember that Orbeez are made of plastic polymer, a derivative of crude oil. Therefore, it is a non-renewable resource that does not do the ecosystem any favors. Therefore, it is not an environmentally friendly product.
Crude oil endangers the stability of the environment when it is collected. One of its main consequences is that it pollutes the air and restricts life in many habitats.
In addition, the processing to which crude oil is subjected after it is collected requires the use of some powerfully toxic chemicals. But it also requires the use of large amounts of energy to burn the fuel, contributing to global warming.
If the chemicals used to process crude oil for the purpose of generating Orbeez are not disposed of properly, the risks of contaminating soil and water increase considerably.
Are they biodegradable?
Actually, they are products that do not degrade easily, even though it is known that they can decompose within 2 to 5 years. But the news is not necessarily positive, since Orbeez are also harmful to the environment.
The reason is that as they decompose over time, polyacrylamide polymers used to manufacture these gel beads degrade to the point of forming acrylamide.
For those who do not know, acrylamide is known to be a neurotoxic and carcinogenic substance. However, some studies have shown that animals are the most likely to get cancer from exposure to this agent. Humans, on the other hand, could suffer neurological damage.
Since it is a soluble material, especially in water, acrylamide has easy access to rivers or lakes after the Orbeez decompose. Therefore, they generate a much higher level of contamination.
Tips for safe disposal of Orbeez
There are safe ways to dispose of gel beads and not compromise the environment. These are the most recommended options:
1. Place them in the garden
One safe way to dispose of Orbeez is to mix them with your potting soil. The technique will keep your garden plants hydrated and also reduce the number of hours per month you spend on plants.
The spheres are able to absorb excess water, storing the liquid that (for the moment) the plant doesn't need. But when it needs to be hydrated, the orbeez release the necessary amount.
Believe it or not, the gel spheres will not harm your garden. When they break down, they will nourish the soil and make the plants grow faster and stronger.
2. Straight to the landfill
Sure, you can throw them in the dumpster in front of your house. But you must do it the right way to avoid incidents.
- The first thing to do is to put the gel spheres in a plastic or paper bag.
- If you choose a paper bag, make sure you have squeezed all the water out of the orbeez to prevent them from getting wet and breaking the bag.
- If you use a plastic bag, be sure to seal it to prevent residue from leaking out.
- Is your bag sealed? Perfect, now throw it in the trash.
Unsafe ways to dispose of small gel beads
The tips below will help you know how NOT to dispose of the orbeez. That way, you will be protecting the environment.
1. Don't throw them away indiscriminately
This tip is quite useful for most people. With them being so small, it is easier for people to throw them in the street without worries. But the truth of the matter is that this is the wrong way to dispose of this toy when it is out of use.
If you flush them down the toilet, they will grow after a few minutes when they come into contact with water. They will expand so much that they could clog the pipes.
2. Avoid spills
As these products are used, you must be very careful when disposing of them. For the same reason, it is advisable not to throw them on the floor and leave them there for a long time.
Remember that they are usually wet. If you keep them on the floor for a long time, you could have an accident if you step on them carelessly. Injuries could be very serious. Your babies' bicycles could slip if the wheels make contact with an orbeez on the ground.
You know the environmental impact of these products, so the advice to follow is to dispose of them safely. Although they may be harmless to children, once they are not used they could affect the ecosystem. Therefore, it is recommended to follow the above-mentioned recommendations to avoid inconveniences.