Take the 2-minute tour ×
The Great Outdoors Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for people who love outdoor activities, excursions, and outdoorsmanship. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Somebody told me that Gore-Tex products would be hazardous waste. Is this true? If I want to dispose of them, what should I do? What are the dangerous substances?

Is this true for other breathable membranes as well? Are there membranes that are free from toxic substances?

share|improve this question

2 Answers 2

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Goretex, generally consists of three chemicals.

The outer

The outer (wear resistant part) is simply nylon or polyester.

This is typically non-hazardous and can be disposed as any other plastic (bearing in mind the long periods of time this is likely going to take to decompose)

The inner

This is the "Gore-tex layer". Goretex itself is simply a Polyurethane/PTFE polymer based plastic. Fully reacted (as in Goretex) polyurethane polymer is chemically inert. PTFE does generate potentially noxious gases at temperatures over 250C, So don't burn it! Again this is typically deemed safe though (as above) it takes a long time to decompose.

The production of PTFE also involves the chemical PFOA . This is highly toxic. Though all of this chemical is removed by the final product (i.e. the Goretex itself is not toxic) this chemical (used in the production of Goretex/PTFE) is potentially long lived in the environment. Several legal actions have been successful against DuPont (though no liabillity was admitted) against the release of this chemical into water course.

DWR

Goretex is also coated with Durable water repellent coating. This is a Fluoropolymer. Again this is typically safe. If large amounts of Fluoropolymer's get into water they can cause issues with fish, aquatic animals, etc. So again this is an environmentally sensitive product.


To summarise

  • Goretex is safe for humans, all the chemicals involved are generally inert and have been passed as safe by every government agency in the world
  • When Goretex is disposed of it can cause environmental damage
  • The production of the chemicals in Goretex are themselves environmentally sensitive, the production creates pollution and uses oil as the main ingredient.

Is this true for other breathable membranes as well?

Typically yes, they all use variations on the theme above

Are there membranes that are free from toxic substances?

Yes plenty! Wool, wax jackets, etc. Are they as effective and breathable, typically no, especially when your talking about breathabillity.

share|improve this answer

http://www.gore-tex.com.au/faq/w1/i1085252/

How should I dispose of a GORE-TEX® product in an environmentally safe way? Garments or footwear made from Gore laminates can be safely disposed of just like any other apparel product.

Contrary to most other plastics, Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) – the raw material of our membrane - is not made or processed using plasticizers or stabilizers. It doesn’t contain residuals like heavy metals, organotin compounds or phthalates. If disposed of in a landfill, PTFE will not degrade, so it will not contribute to the formation of greenhouse gases (i.e. Methane) or release substances into the water or air. In an incineration plant, PTFE is safely converted to CO2 and Fluorspar. Potentially harmful gases are captured by pollution control devices (alkaline scrubbers) that have been in place for a number of decades.

Finding ways to extend the useful life of a product has always been the environmentally preferred option over product disposal. One might wish to consider donating footwear or garments to charities or repurposing the product for other applications.

The Gore Tex answer to this seems very straightforward and reasonable to me.

share|improve this answer
1  
Not criticising the answer, but; I'm not sure stating that PTFE will not degrade makes it environmentally sound. So, it'll just be around forever. I also think the claims (by Gore) that harmful gases are captured by pollution control devices is more than a little bit glib. So China (for example) have these? Doubtful and these scrubbers remove all the CO2 (again I doubt it). As far as I know the only way to successfully remove all CO2 from burning is carbon capture. This technology is in it's infancy and is not widely used. –  Liam Aug 7 at 10:21
    
@Liam -- CO2 is not generally considered a "harmful gas". People exhale it all the time. The amounts of CO2 emitted by destroying goretex are hardly going to be significant enough to influence climate on the scale that is generally of concern. Too much of anything is bad. To say that because goretex emits some gas when burned does not substantially differentiate goretex from any other material known to man, natural or otherwise. –  Russell Steen Aug 7 at 19:45
1  
CO2, 100% is a greenhouse gas. People do exhale it, but burning hydrocarbons (such as PTFE) produces large amounts of CO2 when compared to natural products (it's basically made form Carbon which oxidises when burnt). I'm not saying it's going to single handedly bring down the planet, but neither is it (as Gore are trying to say) environmentally inert. It's as polluting as any other plastic based product. –  Liam Aug 8 at 8:14
    
You know what re-reading it, they've worded it very cleverly. They initially talk about environmentally safe way. They then state that PTFE is safely converted to CO2 and Fluorspar. Which is true but fails to point out that these gases are environmentally sensitive. They then state Potentially harmful gases are captured by pollution control devices. But it it doesn't make the link between CO2 and the scrubbers. The Scrubbers will not remove CO2. They are designed to remove things like ammonia or hydrochloric acid –  Liam Aug 8 at 8:51
1  
Ok, my comment was I'm not "Not criticising the answer, but". I was simply pointing out that the Gore version of what is "environmentally safe" and many other peoples differ. I also did not state that "CO2 is hazardous waste", I said "CO2 is a greenhouse gas". –  Liam Aug 11 at 9:30

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.