Can You Recycle Bike Helmets? (And Do They Expire?)

Bike helmets are one of the more attractive things about owning and riding a bike. They come in different designs and colors, and you can even customize yours to give off a badass look.

But more importantly, they protect you in the event of an accident. Bike helmets have been built to withstand brute force. Sometimes, a helmet is all that saves a person from high-impact accidents. So, it’s an indispensable part of your bike gear, aside from the fashion statement it makes.

Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recommends changing our bike helmets every five to ten years. That way, you’re taking no chances with your safety.

So now, when you’re replacing the previous helmet, how do you get rid of it without harming the environment? Can you recycle bike helmets? What are your other options? In this article, we’ll fully explore them. So let’s get right into it!

Are Bike Helmets Recyclable?

Bike helmets are made from expanded polystyrene foam and a polycarbonate shell. When your helmet comes in contact with brute force, the polycarbonate shell cracks and spreads the impact across the entire helmet.

That way, you’re protected from harm. In addition, the polystyrene foam will serve as the soft padding that prevents the impact from getting to your skull.

These components and more are present in a typical bike helmet. That’s what makes it a bit tricky to recycle one. Unfortunately, there isn’t a special provision for recycling bike helmets just yet.

However, the process is possible, and it’s advised too. You cannot recycle all the parts of a bike helmet. Instead, you’ll have to take it apart.

Now, you can recycle the plastic part – the polycarbonate shell. You can place it with your plastic waste and put them in the plastic recycling bin.

The polystyrene part is also recyclable, but you’ll have to inquire at your local recycling center before including it in your recyclable waste. If there are no provisions for recycling it, then you can use it as a packaging material.

There are different types of polystyrene – soft and foamy or rigid. However, the one used for bike helmets is soft, as it creates extra padding for your head in the event of an accident and even for comfort.

So, you either use it as a packaging material or a soil softener.

Can You Donate Used Bike Helmets?

Donating your old items is one of the environmentally-conscious ways to dispose of them. In addition, you’ll feel good about doing something nice for someone who’s in need. In the case of bike helmets, you may even be saving a life!

So, you certainly can donate your used bike helmets. Many organizations will accept them, but you can start with the people closest to you. You can ask your friends, family and even your neighbors if they’d like to take on your used bike helmet.

But of course, it would have to be in good condition – it’s better if you haven’t used it past its proposed expiry date. That way, maximum safety is guaranteed for the people you donate the bike helmet to.

On the other hand, you can also donate it to different locations that accept bike helmets. They should be available in your region, and you can find out through an internet search.

But again, you need to ensure that the helmet is in top-notch condition. Ensure it’s odorless and clean. Before you donate it, you may have to clean it thoroughly to get it to an acceptable condition.

Do Bike Helmets Expire?

It’s important always to prioritize safety, and that’s why this is a frequently asked question – do bike helmets expire?

Although bike helmets look like they can withstand brute force for a prolonged time, it’s best not to take chances. They don’t have an expiration date, but it’ll be in your best interest to replace them occasionally.

Now, we don’t expect you to do that yearly, but The Snell Memorial Foundation has been regularly testing bike helmets to determine when they begin to diminish in utility. So, they’ve recommended that you change your bike helmet at least once in ten years, essentially every five to ten years.

If you don’t use it often, you may still have to replace it because innovations are making the world safer. As such, a bike helmet that you bought five years ago but have never worn will not be as safe as one that was produced yesterday.

The Snell Memorial Foundation equally gave reasons why they suggested replacing your bike helmet every 5 to 10 years. Regular use can expose it to harsh weather conditions, which is an indispensable contributor to wear and tear.

In addition, regular use will certainly expose your helmet to oil from your hair, sweat, sunblock, among many other fluids that contain chemicals capable of weakening your helmet over time.

Lastly, every material degrades. It can’t have the same level of utility it had when it was first produced. So, to avoid taking chances, it’s best to stick to the five to ten-year rule. Your bike helmet doesn’t expire, but it degrades over time.

Can You Paint Bike Helmets?

Are you tired of a drab-looking bike helmet? Sure, you can buy a helmet with a customized design online, but would you rather hold on to your current one and save yourself some extra money?

If your answer is positive, then you can attempt to paint your bike helmet yourself! However, you’ll have to do it with care, and it starts with the type of paint you choose.

Now, some paints contain chemicals that can weaken the polycarbonate shell of your bike helmet over time. Unfortunately, these chemicals can also affect the polystyrene inner layer, and of course, it’ll defeat the purpose of wearing a helmet in the first place.

So, when choosing paint, you can check the brand of helmet you own. Then, check the model label on your helmet, and if you’re lucky, you’ll find the solvents that are bad for your helmet.

If it’s not included, you can check your brand’s website for solvents that aren’t good for your helmet. When buying your paint, ensure you check the chemicals present in it and keep looking if it contains the solvent that’s not compatible with your helmet.

You can use water-based acrylic paint. It’s usually the go-to paint for bike helmets because it hardly contains solvents that can cause the polycarbonate shell of bikes to crack. However, it’s best to be double sure by still comparing the ingredients of the paint.

When painting with acrylic paint, ensure you paint multiple layers because this type of paint peels more easily than paint that contains solvents. Additionally, ensure that each layer dries properly before applying the next.

You could also consider spray-painting your helmet – it saves time! However, the paint may contain solvents that are bad for polycarbonate, or some of the paint could get on the polystyrene layer, making it erode over time.

So, when you’re sure the spray paint your choosing is compatible with the brand of your bike helmet, you can put some covering over the polystyrene layer before you get to spraying.

Can You Use Bike Helmets For Skiing?

If you ski only on rare occasions, you likely want to save money by substituting some gear with what you already have, like a bike helmet.

However, is that a good idea? Well, regarding your safety, it certainly isn’t! Bike helmets haven’t been designed for snow – they’re particularly for hard surfaces.

Now, while a bike helmet may look like it would be a perfect substitute for a ski helmet, it isn’t. In fact, some states have made it illegal to wear a bike helmet when skiing.

So aside from your safety, which is at stake when you use a bike helmet as a substitute for a ski helmet, you may also be flaunting the laws of your state.

What to Do With Old Helmets?

Getting rid of something we’re attached to can be difficult. However, it’s sometimes inevitable. We’ll highlight your available options, and you can choose anyone you feel best befits your bike helmet. Let’s go!

1. Recycle it

As we have mentioned before, recycling isn’t always an option for bike helmets. However, it’s still necessary that we dispose of all our waste through the right medium, so you can find a way around this.

Some regions may accept bike helmets as a whole, but they’ll be recycling centers that likely specialize in bike helmets. You can use a recycling locator to find one and either take it down yourself or pay to have it picked up.

On the other hand, you could recycle the helmet yourself. You’ll have to take it apart. It has hard plastic, which is a polycarbonate shell. Soft plastic, the polystyrene shell is also present, and sometimes, there are ropes made from different materials.

So, you’ll have to separate them and place them in their various recycling bins. Regarding polystyrene foam, you can recycle it in your home.

It’s excellent for aerating your soil, and you can cut it into small pieces and mix it with the soil.

2. Donate it

Alternatively, you may choose to donate it. However, you can only donate a helmet that hasn’t reached its expiration period.

You can give the helmet to friends or family, emergency services, or even school drama societies.

Some other organizations are willing to take on bike helmets; however, they must be in good condition before giving them out.

3. Upcycle it

Now, this is where we thrive, and you get creative! You get to keep your bike helmet close to you too.

You can attempt helmet art, and here, you’ll get artsy by exploring your creative side. Splash some colors by spray painting or using a paintbrush on your helmet, and don’t be afraid to display the result on your bookshelf or nightstand.

If you also fancy yourself a green thumb, you can transform your helmet into a hanging planter. Again, it’s pretty straightforward – simply take out the polystyrene foam and fill that part with potting mix.

Then, plant any seed of your choice and hang the result anywhere in your home. Of course, you could also choose not to hang it and instead use the helmet as a flower pot of some sort.

It would also make a great bird feeder. Bird-watching is a fascinating activity, and you get to both watch and feed them at your doorstep. Thankfully, most bike helmets have straps that you can hang from a nail and place some food in there.

You could also get a small bowl for water; there’s enough space in a helmet for both!


A helmet is important for your safety every time you ride your bike. It can go a long way in saving your life if an accident occurs. However, it would be best to change it often to ensure it serves you properly when the need arises.

Now, when you’re replacing your helmet, you may wonder about the most environmentally sensitive ways to dispose of it. We’re certain you’ve found your answers in this blog post. So, don’t hesitate it use it to make better choices.

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About Rinkesh

A true environmentalist by heart ❤️. Founded Conserve Energy Future with the sole motto of providing helpful information related to our rapidly depleting environment. Unless you strongly believe in Elon Musk‘s idea of making Mars as another habitable planet, do remember that there really is no 'Planet B' in this whole universe.