I love Orbeez. I have many great memories of emptying packets of brightly colored Orbeez beads in a bowl of water and impatiently waiting for them to grow. I would dunk my hands in just to squish them around.
They are tons of fun, but when disposing of them I never considered the environmental consequences like are Orbeez biodegradable? or if they are toxic to waterways.
In this post, I’ll be answering some of the most common questions about Orbeez, their impact on the environment, and their biodegradability.
What Are Orbeez Water Beads
Orbeez or water beads are often used as decorations or for sensory play. They are small, colorful beads made from water-absorbing polymer crystals.
Orbeez are biodegradable, although they take a long time to break down.
They were invented to help agricultural soil retain water, helping plants retain moisture. Although they take longer to break down than natural ingredients like cotton they are 100% biodegradable over time.
Are Orbeez Eco-Friendly?
Orbeez are, in theory, 100% biodegradable because the super absorbent polymers that make up Orbeez can degrade over time.
There is, however, some debate over their impact on the environment. Mainly because the polymer base has an extended degradation period.
While the jury is still out on whether Orbeez balls are eco-friendly long-term or not, the fact that they are biodegradable means that, over time, they will break down and will not impact the environment.
How Long Does It Take For Orbeez To Biodegrade?
The answer to this question depends on a few factors, such as the type of Orbeez beads, the environment they are in, and how much water is present.
Depending on the ingredients used to make Orbeez, they can last 2-3 years or even 10 years before degrading completely.
Some manufacturers of Orbeez simply state that they are not biodegradable because they take a long time to degrade.
And if you are considering using water polymer beads for your plants and garden, it’s important to note that they may be there for a while before deteriorating.
Where Did Orbeez Originate?
Orbeez are super absorbent polymer beads that were invented by the United States Department Of Agriculture in the 1960s as a product to retain moisture in the soil.
Orbeez were then developed by the Maya Group Corporation, a leader in the toy industry, who later sold it to Spin Master, a children’s entertainment company.
Orbeez were released in 2009 but really grew in popularity in 2018.
What Are Orbeez Made Of?
There are no plastic materials used to make an Orbeez bead, however, they do contain polymer ingredients that can be broken down into the following: –
- Polyvinyl Alcohol
- Sodium Hydroxide
- Color Pigments
While polyacrylamide, polyvinyl alcohol, and sodium hydroxide are not harmful to the environment, Orbeez can be a problem to aquatic life if released into waterways as they may be ingested by fish.
This is why it’s important to dispose of Orbeez responsibly and not release them into the environment.
How Long Does It Take Orbeez To Grow?
Orbeez usually takes between 2 to 24 hours to grow. How fast they grow depends on water temperature and how much of the warm or hot water they can absorb.
Here are a few suggestions to get yours to grow faster:
- Warm to hot water makes Orbeez grow faster. To make yours grow faster, soak them in hot water.
- Use as many Orbeez as you can; the more you have, the more water they can absorb
- Make sure the Orbeez have enough space. If they are cramped, they won’t have enough room to expand, grow and absorb water.
What Happens If Orbeez Water Beads Burst?
There is a misconception that if you burst Orbeez, all the water they have absorbed will pour out.
However, if you break or burst a bead, no water will leak due to the polymer and its water-retaining properties. Instead, you will be left with bits and pieces.
When they burst, they will have a hard gel-type texture that is not toxic if exposed to your skin.
Can You Reuse or Recycle Orbeez?
Orbeez can’t be recycled but can be re-used. If you want to extend their lifespan, you can dehydrate them and store them to be used again.
This is done by leaving the water-filled Orbeez on a tray in a warm place in your house.
Orbeez generally takes 4-5 days to dehydrate but can take longer depending on the size of the polymer beads.
Also, your water beads should not be exposed to direct sunlight as this can cause them to break or their color to fade.
How To Dispose Of Orbeez Water Beads?
If you want to dispose of Orbeez, you should avoid throwing them down the sink. This can block your sink and can cause significant damage. There are two methods of disposing of your Orbeez:
1. In the trash. If you have finished with your Orbeez, you can dispose of them by throwing them in the trash. This will be taken to the landfill and degrade over time.
2. In the garden. You can dispose of your Orbeez in your garden soil. They can be placed in the soil or around plants. Although avoid putting them near a fish pond, generally they contain no toxic chemicals but they can cause problems if eaten by fish.
It’s better for the environment to re-use water beads instead of disposing of them.
For example, you can re-use your Orbeez by dehydrating them when you aren’t using them and then rehydrate them when you want to use them again.
Are Orbeez Toxic?
In general water beads are non-toxic and do not contain poisonous substances. However, always check the manufacturer’s guidance on the packet.
They’re made from a polymer consisting of acrylic acid, sodium hydroxide, and water. To make colorful water beads a colorant is added to Orbeez to give them their bright color and make them more attractive to children.
Despite Orbeez being non-toxic, they are dangerous if swallowed and can be a choking hazard. Always supervise young children if playing with Orbeez!
Because they can’t be broken down in the digestive system, if they are swallowed, they will grow in size, but in most cases, they pass down the digestive tract and work their way out.
Regardless of this, there are exceptional circumstances where medical attention is needed. If Orbeez are swallowed, you should seek medical care right away!
What Happens If You Leave Orbeez In Water Too Long?
Orbeez were not designed to be kept in water for long periods. But were designed to retain water and then dehydrate back to their original size when there is no water.
It’s best not to leave Orbeez in the water for too long. If they are left in water for too long, they could break.
It’s best to leave them in water for no longer than 2 days and then change the water and dry them.
Orbeez can be continually used until they start degrading. If you keep them in water most of the day and exposed to light, they will likely last 1-2 years.
As soon as you remove them from the water, they will slowly shrink to their original size.
How Long Does It Take For Orbeez To Shrink?
How long it takes for Orbeez to shrink depends on a few factors, including the type of Orbeez and the size of the gel beads.
Most Orbeez will begin to shrink after 24 hours and will be fully shrunk after 48 hours. Some types of Orbeez may take longer to shrink. If you are unsure check the instructions on the package.
Do Water Beads Get Moldy?
When dry, Orbeez are hard and can last years. However, when soaked in water, they grow to hundreds of times their original size and become very soft.
Water beads can be a fun addition to any play space, but it is important to know that they can also get moldy, especially if they split.
If they are not dried out completely between uses, mold spores can start to grow on them.
As a result, it is important to store these jelly beads in a dry, airtight container when they are not being used. By taking these simple precautions, you can enjoy water beads for many years to come.
Can You Put Orbeez In The Compost?
Because Orbeez take so long to biodegrade they aren’t suitable to add to compost, however, because a compost bin works by using moisture to break down the contents you could add a layer of water beads to help provide a source of moisture.
As the Orbeez dry out, they will pass the moisture into the compost bin helping the composting process. Just be sure to remove them before you use the compost.
Are Orbeez Water Beads Pet Safe?
Orbeez water beads are not toxic for pets. Still, they can pose a choking risk and be dangerous if swallowed, causing a blockage in your pet’s digestive system. The most concerning issue with swallowing them is their ability to grow when digested.
If your pet has swallowed Orbeez, contact your veterinarian immediately.
How To Store Orbeez
If you want to store your Orbeez for later use, there are a few things you need to keep in mind. You can either leave them in water or dehydrate them.
If you leave them in water, make sure you change the water every day or two and keep them in a cool, dark place.
If you dehydrate them, they will last longer but you need to make sure they are in a dry place and not exposed to sunlight.
Alternative Uses For Orbeez
Alternative uses for OrbeezThere are a number of alternative uses for Orbeez that you can try. Here are a few:
- In the bath. One fun way to use your Orbeez is to add them to your bathtub. This will add some color and fun to your bath.
- In the pool. You can also add Orbeez to your pool to create some fun water effects.
- In a vase. If you have some flowers that need a little extra water, add some Orbeez to their vase. This will help keep them fresh for longer.
- As a stress ball. If you’re feeling stressed out, try squeezing some Orbeez in your hands. This can be a fun and relaxing way to de-stress.
- As decoration. You can also use Orbeez as decoration for special events or parties.
In general Orbeez water beads don’t harm the environment but it takes them longer to deteriorate than organic materials.
Are Orbeez biodegradable? Yes, they are, and they are also non-toxic to humans and most animals. However, if you have a fish pond in your garden be aware that they can affect aquatic life.
Other than that it’s perfectly safe to use and dispose of them in your garden.