Don’t waste your old winter sports gear
You may be hoping for some new winter sports gear this Christmas. But if and when Santa comes through for you, what will you do with your old gear?
Skis, snowboards, poles, bindings, boots, helmets — once equipment has passed its hand-me-down phase, there aren’t a lot of options. You can pile it in a corner of the garage or basement where it will collect dust until you finally decide to throw it out. Then, it’s usually off to the local landfill where it will sit for the next few millennia.
"There is nothing green or sustainable about the ski industry, unfortunately," said Recycle Utah Executive Director Insa Riepen.
Recycle Utah collaborates with Snowsports Industries America (SIA) on a recycling program for winter sport gear — it’s "the first such program in Utah," according to Recycle Utah, and runs November through May.
Winter sports equipment is difficult to recycle. According to SIA, the overall makeup is about 5 percent steel, 25 percent aluminum, 60 percent plastic and 10 percent wood and fiberglass, and those materials need to be broken down and segregated. That difficulty means it’s expensive — Recycle Utah pays 50 cents per pound for the service, including transportation to Salt Lake City.
In 2013, the Park City nonprofit recycled 15,000 pounds of winter sports equipment. For 2014, the total is approaching 16,000 pounds.
Currently, funds for the winter gear recycling come from Recycle Utah’s general fund (to donate, visit recycleutah.org/donate). Last season, the nonprofit received a grant for the service from Park City Mountain Resort that was voted on by its employees, Riepen said. Since then, however, funding has been more scarce. Recycle Utah has submitted "quite a few" grant requests to support the service but so far those requests haven’t borne fruit.
Recycle Utah accepts all kinds of skis and snowboards (and their bindings), which, with their various combinations of new-age plastics (often non-biodegradable and toxic), metal and wood, can be difficult to break down. Ski poles and bindings are also accepted.
One kind of crucial equipment that should generally be recycled rather than reused is helmets. If a helmet suffers any kind of impact, its integrity — either the hard plastic outer shell or expanded polystyrene interior — can be compromised. Helmet manufacturers generally recommend that helmets be replaced every few years.
"I would ask everyone to take a hammer to it and make sure that it will not be reused for anything," Ripen said of old helmets.
There’s one kind of equipment that’s not recyclable that Recycle Utah still wants you to drop off — snowboard boots.
"Snowboard boots cannot be recycled because they don’t have the plastic in them (or at least not much)," explained Riepen. "But we take those as well and we bring those down to the homeless shelter in Salt Lake City. Because actually snowboard boots, if they’re still in good shape — or reasonably good shape — those make terrific winter boots for people who have flip-flops on."
For other old winter gear like clothing, consider making a run to the Christian Center of Park City — its mission is "to meet people at their point of need" and accepts donations from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Saturday.
The center reports that it "repurposed and saved from the landfill, through our Boutique and Thrift store," about one million dollars’ worth of clothes in 2013.
With winter officially arriving this past Sunday, snow sport gear will be in demand. Drop off your old parka or insulated gloves knowing they won’t go to waste.
Don’t fill up the Summit County landfill with your old winter sports gear. Drop off your equipment at Recycle Utah (1951 Woodbine Way) and your clothes at the Christian Center of Park City (1283 Deer Valley Drive). If you have any questions, contact Recycle Utah at 435-649-9698 and the Christian Center at 435-649-2260.
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