What Happens when I Lose a KOOSHOO Hair Tie in the Water?

biodegradable hair ties for the oceans

Biodegradable Hair Ties for Scuba Divers, Surfers, Snorkelers and Swimmers

About once a week we get a question from a scuba diver, surfer, snorkeler or beach-goer similar to the one below from Lorrie

“Thank you so much for making a product that is so needed. I have a question: I am a scuba diver and every trip I go on I lose my hair ties. Thanks to good people around me I usually get them back but only because I buy the brightest ones I can find. My question is: will your hair tie dissolve in water over time if I lose one? It upsets me that I could be littering the ocean with my hair ties. Thank you, Lorrie”

In answering Lorrie’s question today, we realized we haven’t done enough to tell the story of what happens to our biodegradable hair ties if lost in the water.

Today, we make right on that.

The Life Cycle of a Hair Tie Lost in the Water

There are only 2 types of material in our hair ties: GOTS certified organic cotton and natural rubber. Even the thread and the KOOSHOO label on our ties are made from 100% organic cotton. As for that funny GOTS word you’ve seen us bandy about, it stands for Global Organic Textile Standard and is the gold standard for organic certification worldwide.

When our hair ties are placed in a composting environment (soil, for example), the organic cotton portion - approx 75% of the product - will break down to nothing in well under a year. Being biodegradable means the material can be devoured by microorganisms in the soil - essentially, nature’s way of recycling natural products into more soil.

The responsibly sourced natural tree rubber (tapped from a tree, much like maple syrup) will take longer to biodegrade under the same conditions. By our estimates, the natural rubber would be no more within 3 to 7 years thanks to those same hungry micro-organisms.

Of course, losing a hair elastic while diving, surfing, swimming or snorkeling means that your hair tie won’t have the chance to get buried in soil.

Water, by nature, has far less (if any) oxygen and that oxygen is an important player in the break-down cycle of a naturally-derived product. The implication here is that your KOOSHOO hair tie will take longer to break down in the water but - and this is critical - it WILL still break down completely.

The studies we’ve read (such as those done by North Carolina State University) suggest the time to full break down for a naturally-derived product in water does not change dramatically so if we assume that the bio-degradation process is doubled in water, your KOOSHOO hair ties will have fully disappeared from the water within 14 years. To be clear, by “fully disappeared” we mean no trace left - everything returned completely back to nature.

By contrast, any hair tie made from synthetic material (every other hair tie in the world!) will never fully biodegrade - in soil or water.

Yep, the key word there is NEVER.

Synthetics are man-made materials made up of elements that do not exist in nature (petrochemicals, for example). For this reason, nature has no natural microorganism that will break down synthetic fiber. Yes, a synthetic fiber will eventually “break down” into smaller and smaller pieces but micro-plastics will always exist and those micro-plastics will come back to us full circle, as this recent stat from The Guardian makes clear:

“Scientists at Ghent University in Belgium recently calculated that shellfish lovers are eating up to 11,000 plastic fragments in their seafood each year.”

Our Organic Hair Ties aren't perfect but they're a massive step in the right direction.

This is why ocean protectors (and badasses!) like Sea Shepherd have sought us out to partner on limited edition fundraiser packs like the one below, inspired by the color-scheme of their famed ship: the Bob Barker.

Sea Shepherd x KOOSHOO

A portion or proceeds from every pack sold goes to Sea Shepherd’s ocean conservation initiatives. Limited stock available.

Perhaps the best news of all for you water-goers fortunate enough to own a KOOSHOO Hair Tie: the most common feedback we get is that our hair ties hold stronger and longer than any other hair tie, all while never causing hair tie headaches.

This means that on your next dive, surf, swim or snorkel, you can rest easy knowing that your KOOSHOO Hair Tie isn’t likely to be going anywhere but on the off chance it does, it will return fully to nature before long.