Have you ever wondered how eco-friendly your cork yoga mat really is? Many yoga practitioners are turning away from cheap mass-produced yoga mats which are harmful to the environment and human health and opting for more environmentally sustainable options like cork – but is it biodegradable and compostable?
Yes, Cork is biodegradable but it can take longer than other plant-based materials because it is naturally impermeable to liquid. This makes it great for yoga mats because it will repel sweat but it also means that it has a slow degradation time which can be sped up with proper composting.
On the bright side, this means that your cork yoga mat will not only be anti-bacterial and sustainable, it will also last you a very long time for hundreds of asanas and yoga classes.
How to Compost Cork the Right Way
- First, if your cork mat is attached to any backing, separate them and only put the cork in your compost unless you are sure that the backing is also compostable.
- Cut away any printed logos or designs on your mat unless you are sure that the ink used is plant-based and 100 percent natural too.
- Chop up the rest of the cork into pieces – the smaller the better to speed up decomposition.
- Put these tiny pieces of cork into your compost bin or heap.
- Add an equal amount of green material.
Cork is brown compost material, meaning it is dry. Green material is anything that has a high nitrogen content like kitchen scraps, fresh cuttings from your garden, coffee grounds, and animal manure.
But Not All Cork Yoga Mats are Compostable
Although cork itself is biodegradable and compostable, a cork yoga mat may have added elements that are not environmentally friendly. This may include materials used for its backing, glue, or any ink used to print a design or company logo on the mat.
These are the most common materials used to make yoga mats and used as backing for cork mats:
PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride) vs Cork
This is the absolute worst material that is used for yoga mats and, unfortunately, is the most mass-produced because it is cheap. But because it is vinyl, it is carcinogenic when inhaled.
Also, in its manufacturing process, it releases dioxins which are not only cancer-causing, but also do not break down easily in the environment.
In addition, to make PVC soft and pliable, plasticizers like phthalates are added.
Just stay far, far away from cheap PVC yoga mats for your health and the health of the environment.
Polyurethane vs Cork
Polyurethane is made by mixing methylene diphenyl diisocyanate (MDI) and toluene diisocyanate (TDI) to react with polyols. TDI is very toxic. It is a skin and respiratory irritant and is suspected to be carcinogenic.
Flame retardants are often added to polyurethane because it is highly flammable on its own. These retardants are toxic and may do more harm than good in a fire.
Finally, polyurethane cannot be composted and is not biodegradable.
TPE (Thermoplastic Elastomer) vs Cork
TPE is often considered one of the more eco-friendly yoga mat options even though it is a mixture of rubber and plastic. This is because it’s free of BPA, phthalates, lead, PVC, and other bisphenols.
Yoga mats made of TPE are an alternative to PVC and polyurethane because they are lighter, but TPE is not as sturdy as natural rubber.. TPE is also not biodegradable.
Vulcanized rubber is made of natural rubber which has been stripped of sulphur and then treated to high-heat. The process was invented by Charles Goodyear in 1843.
The process of vulcanization is irreversible which makes it unrecyclable but it is biodegradable after a long time – 50 years according to most estimates. Technologies have been developed to help reverse the vulcanization process but you will need to bring it to specialized recycling centres.
Yes we’re biased but cork is a great choice for eco-friendly yoga mats. Even though it takes a long time to biodegrade you can help it to decay by composting it.
Other yoga mat materials may contain additives and chemicals that not only harm the environment but are also toxic to your health. Stick with cork for a biodegradable and compostable eco-friendly yoga mat option.