06/26/2010 Update: And the winner of the recyclable windshield wiper blades is Rhonda Coulter. Congratulations, Rhonda!
Do you need a new pair of windshield wiper blades? Leave a comment (after reading this post) to enter the giveaway. I have a brand new pair, and since I don’t have a car, they’re not doing me any good sitting in my living room.
Recycling Windshield Wiper Blades?
So what business do I have writing about car windshield wiper blades when I don’t even own a car? Well, a while back I received a PR pitch from JAMAK Fabrication about their new green, recyclable windshield wiper blades, and I was intrigued.
Why? Because by “recyclable”, they don’t mean that you can stick them in your recycle bin and be done with them. That wouldn’t be anything new. Lots of companies these days greenwash their products by saying they’re recyclable. No, what Jamak means is that they will take back the windshield wiper blades themselves and make new products out of them.
But let’s back up. Since I don’t own a car, I knew next to nothing about windshield wiper blades except that I wouldn’t want to drive in the rain without them. I didn’t know, for example, that you’re supposed to replace your windshield wipers every 6 to 12 months. But Jamak’s silicone blades are guaranteed for the life of your car. That’s an improvement in and of itself.
Wanting to know more, I spoke with company owner Al Micallef, who gave me an earful about waste, plastic, and recycling. According to Al, the best form of recycling is never having to replace a product in the first place. But when products do need to be recycled, it’s important they be made out of a material that can be reprocessed into new products immediately without downcycling. And he told me that he has developed a way to repolymerize the silicone (a material derived from sand rather than petroleum) and reuse it. Al said, “You can take a (rubber) tire and make a floor mat. But that’s not true recycling.”
Researching this article, I Googled “recycle windshield wipers” and came up with all kinds of ways to repurpose (like making a floor mat out of a tire) but not recycle:
Testing the Blades
Jamak sent me some samples to test out. And since I don’t have a car, my friends David and Nancy offered to be my guinea pigs. Unfortunately, when the blades arrived, rain was not in the forecast, so we had to make some of our own. Oh my god, get ready, because it gets really exciting!
What did I tell you? I’d play it backwards for you, but I’m not sure my heart could take it.
Seriously, besides the fact that the blades last a really long time and can be recycled, there’s something else that’s exciting to me.
There’s no plastic on the shipping box…
and none on the wiper packaging.
The blades are sold in stores in 100% cardboard without even a plastic window.
Or they are shipped from TheWiperStore.com in a paper bag.
Nothing is perfect, right? Jamak, unfortunately, does not sell wiper blade refills, so the metal parts cannot be reused. Instead, Jamak asks that you put the metal frame into your recycle bin to be recycled with scrap metal. Here in Oakland, we are not allowed to put any metal besides cans into our bins. I’m not sure how metal recycling works in other areas. So the system could use a tweak. But if the blades last as long as they are supposed to, there will be much less material wasted in the first place. Unfortunately, that’s a test I can’t do in a weekend. And regardless, I wish Jamak would take back the metal along with the silicone or create refills so the metal doesn’t have to be replaced.
In the meantime, you could keep those metal parts for an art project, like the artist in this GardenWeb forum who won a prize for his preying mantis planter made with metal wiper blade parts.
The Wiper Blade Giveaway
I have one set of new, unused 17″ wiper blades to give away. You’ll have to determine what size blades your car uses and whether 17″ will work for you. Then, please leave a comment describing what strategies you use to lower the amount of waste you generate through driving, whether it be wasted fuel, wasted materials, or even wasted time.