What Do You Do With Your Outdoor Gear When it Reaches its End of Life?

To deal with the increasing soup of wildfire smoke in Northern California, and to hopefully protect our toddler girl’s developing lungs, my wife and I bought a bigger air purifier for our house. Because as the calendar flips toward fall, power outages loom as PG&E cuts the juice to lines that can spark fires during the real fire season which is, unbelievably, just now getting underway, we also bought a solar-powered battery/power station to run key appliances during potentially days-long outages.

All that is to say we found ourselves swimming in styrofoam packing materials. Big blocks of white foam. I gathered up a few armfuls and tossed the foam and a handful of old wetsuits I don’t wear anymore into the back of my car and headed to a local surf shop that recycles the styrofoam into new foam that can be used for new surfboards. They do the same with old wetsuits.

Except, oops, they no longer take styrofoam. The company that did the recycling for them ended the program. They do still take wetsuits though, thank goodness. This prompted a realization that I’ve owned something like 50 surfboards, I’d guess, over my lifetime, including my current 5-board quiver. I don’t know for certain, but I have to assume that 75% of those boards are now taking up space in a landfill somewhere.

I’ve never actually thrown one away, mind you. Ever. I sell them when I grow bored of them. Then, eventually, somebody somewhere throws that board in the garbage. When you sell stuff you no longer have need for, it doesn’t seem like you’re throwing it away, so it feels less wasteful, but, in all reality, unless that board finds its last home with someone particularly adept at surfboard recycling, those boards still end up in a landfill, even if I didn’t drive it there myself.

Then, a deeper realization: I’ve sold backpacks, tents, jackets, boots, headlamps—the full outdoor good spectrum—when I didn’t have a use for it anymore, and, in all likelihood, those things too are headed for a landfill.

Of course, somebody buying used means they aren’t buying new, and that’s a wonderful thing. Happy to help that cycle. But I only sell things that still have life left. Because I’m used to buying and selling clothes at second-hand stores, that’s, well, second nature to me. But I have a few jackets now that I never sold because I love them too much, but eventually, these jackets will be more duct tape than polyester and nylon, and then what?

Do you know how to recycle gear or apparel? Can you throw a down parka into the recycling bin? What about a tent? Are you sure?

We’re committed to educating ourselves here at Team AJ as much as possible about what the environmental impact of outdoor gear, clothes included, is, and how and what it means to recycle gear, to buy recycled gear, to buy used gear, to fix gear—all of it.

So, we’re wondering what you do with your old stuff when you’ve decided it’s reached the end of its usefulness for you.


And, by the way, here’s some info on what you can do with styrofoam if you like the idea of recycling it into new surfboard blanks.

Photo: Pixabay



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