Are Orbeez (Water Beads) Biodegradable? Not What You Would Expect.

Water Beads

Let’s talk about water beads for a moment here.

Water beads are hydrogels made from super absorbent polymers. These polymers are hydrophilic, meaning they love to take in water. When water beads are exposed to water, they can expand up to 10 times in size.

Kids and adults love water beads. More specifically, they love the water bead brand Orbeez (and yes, there are other water beads companies out there).

Why do people like Orbeez? Here are a few reasons:

  1. They are colorful wet beads. What kid wouldn’t want to play with something so unique?
  2. They are great for temporary art projects. The colors will make any piece shine brighter.
  3. The feel of wet, expanded water beads can be therapeutic to the touch.
  4. You can make light jars with them for an added visual flair.
  5. They are non-toxic. Even if eaten, they pass through the digestive system with no troubles.

That said, it can be confusing to learn whether or not Orbeez is actually good for the environment. This is because different people have conflicting opinions, and there are quite a few unfounded assumptions regarding the biodegradability of Orbeez.

So with that in mind, we’ll diving deep so that we can give you the facts surrounding Orbeez. By the end of this article, you’ll be an Orbeez expert.

Let’s jump right in!

As usual, let’s address the big question first. After that, we’ll talk about some of the common questions people have regarding Orbeez and the environment.

Are Orbeez (Water Beads) Biodegradable?

Water beads settled in hands

The simple answer is yes, Orbeez is biodegradable. The super absorbent polymer that makes up Orbeez can degrade over time when exposed to the right conditions.

Water beads were originally designed to help agricultural soil retain water; the water would soak into the beads and be slowly dispersed into the soil as needed, allowing crops to siphon water for longer periods of time.

This saves time, money, and resources that would have been spent with more frequent watering.

Gardeners and farmers still use water beads for their crops to this day. And since Orbeez is just colorful water beads, they can be used for the same purpose. Although, some people probably wouldn’t appreciate having colorful spots all over their garden or farm.

However, keep in mind that water beads are designed to last. Otherwise, you’d have to keep buying them to keep your soil fresh.

Do Orbeez Dissolve Away?

Depending on the conditions, Orbeez can last 2-3 years or even up to a decade before biodegrading.

So before you throw Orbeez all over your backyard, lawn, garden, or farm, know that they’ll probably be there for quite some time.

Don’t just take our word for it. Here is what the manufacturer on Amazon says:

This basically mirrors what we said.

Orbeez will last a very long time without biodegrading, but will eventually biodegrade. This product just doesn’t decompose fast enough to be called “biodegradable” in the strictest terms.

When used in soil, expect your water beads to last anywhere from 7 to 9 years.

So no, orbeez won’t actually dissolve into nothing, at least not for a long time.

What Happens to Orbeez When Put in Hot or Warm Water?

The orbeez will grow at a much faster rate in hot or warm water. If you need your orbeez quickly, then they should be fully grown in about 4 fours in hot or warm water.

The use of hot water will not cause orbeez to degrade faster or slower than normal. A fun science fact is that osmosis is responsible for the growth of orbeez, which refers to transfer of water from the source of water to inside the orbeez bead. Higher temperatures increase the rate by which water moves from one end to the other.

Can Orbeez be Reused?

Yes, orbeez can be reused. In fact, it’s recommend that you reuse them. Not only is it better for your wallet, but it’s more environmentally responsible too.

An orbeez bead will naturally lose water over time and shrink back to its original size. When you want to grow it again, simply add it back to water. It will continue to grow and shrink until it starts to naturally degrade.

Are Orbeez (Water Beads) Eco-Friendly?

Dew drops on leaf

Yes, Orbeez is very eco-friendly. This makes sense considering that they are heavily used in agriculture. Orbeez is non-toxic too, meaning you don’t have to worry about any nasty chemicals leaching into the environment.

While their presence may not be wanted, they won’t kill any animals or disrupt the food chain.

That said, there are good reasons why you shouldn’t just toss your Orbeez around.

As we mentioned before, these water beads will stick around for much longer than you probably think. If you toss them into your backyard/lawn and don’t pick them up, they’ll still be there for years after the fact.

And every time they are exposed to water (rain, watering plants, etc.), they’ll be rehydrated and pop up in random places. For people who like the look of a clean backyard, this might be an issue.

So unless you plan on waiting for them to biodegrade after 7 to 9 years, then you probably want to keep them out of the environment.

Are Orbeez (Water Beads) Recyclable?

Hand holding a green Earth

No, Orbeez and other water beads are not recyclable. Orbeez is not made of plastic nor any other material that is recyclable. The superabsorbent material itself is non-recyclable.

If you want to dispose of Orbeez, then you either need to:

  1. Put it in soil and let it work for your garden.
  2. Throw it in the trash.

There isn’t really another way. Keep in mind that landfills will slow the biodegradation process to a crawl. Think twice before tossing your Orbeez into the trash bin.

But while Orbeez is not recyclable, they are very reusable. You can use them in LED lamp lights, as art pieces, and even as an air fresher (with the right scents and oils). The possibilities are only limited to your imagination. Here are some other fun ways to use them.

Quick note: do NOT put them down the drain. This means no flushing down the toilet, either! Orbeez and other water beads WILL clog up your pipes, which can lead to some very damaging and expensive repairs down the road.

Are Orbeez (Water Beads) Compostable?

Hands holding compost

Orbeez are not compostable. In fact, they are likely to last a very long time in a compost bin.

This is because a compost bin requires moisture to work properly. Orbeez will not decompose faster, but rather last longer since they’ll absorb the water.

Although Orbeez and other water beads are not compostable, they can actually be used to keep your compost bin moist. Just hydrated them and mix them into the compost similar to how you would for garden soil.

They will slowly release water, meaning that you don’t have to moisturize the bin as often.

Are Orbeez Safe To Eat?

Water drops on leaf salad

Orbeez is relatively safe to eat in small quantities. They will pass through the digestive system without any problems, though they also won’t be digested. They are also made to be non-toxic, so even a child, dog, or cat can ingest them without much concern.

You should still make sure that children (and animals) don’t eat them, though. They are a choking hazard for children 3 years or younger. And if enough of them are eaten at once, they can cause internal blockages and cause serious health problems.

If you are reading this and worried about your child or pet accidentally eating them, there’s no harm in consulting with your pediatrician or vet respectively.

And if you know that it was only one or a few Orbeez, the “victim” will probably be okay. But it’s always good to double-check!

In Summary

Alright, let’s sum up the key points for this article:

  1. Orbeez are technically biodegradable but can take 7 to 9 years to do so.
  2. Orbeez are not recyclable.
  3. Orbeez are not compostable, but they can be used to help retain moisture in a compost bin.
  4. Do NOT put Orbeez in any drain, including flushing them. This will damage the pipes and lead to costly repairs.
  5. Orbeez and other water beads can be used to help retain moisture in the soil as well, allowing plants and crops to go without water for longer periods.
  6. Orbeez are non-toxic and safe to eat in small quantities for both children and pets (including cats and dogs). If you are concerned, please go see an appropriate medical specialist.

As you can see, Orbeez and water beads, in general, are actually not that bad for the environment. In fact, they can be to support proper plant and crop care. The fewer resources needed to maintain both, the more we can conserve for other needs. It doesn’t get more eco-friendly than that.

However, you should still practice caution when using them. While they may be safe, you can find yourself having to pick them up one by one in a backyard or lawn. Unless they are being used for plant life, it’s better to keep them off the ground.

You can dispose of them by collecting them all in a bag and tossing them in the trash. Even better, you can reuse it for a variety of fun projects and activities.

When enjoyed properly, Orbeez and other water beads can add some wet, colorful fun to your day.

Wrap Up

That concludes our article! Now you can spread the word!

If you like this article, check out some of our others too:

As always, thanks for reading. We appreciate you stopping by.

Let’s all continue to strive for a greener, better way of living!