As the protective clothing industry actively seeks out ways to lessen its environmental impact, it’s natural to consider recycling garments when they have reached the end of their lifetime. However, it’s not always quite so simple. Bunker gear is one example of PPE where recycling isn’t necessarily a viable solution just yet. However, this doesn’t mean we can’t take steps to safely prolong the lifetime of bunker gear, and thus reduce wastage. Read on to find out more.
What is bunker gear?
Bunker gear refers to garments that are worn for structural firefighting. They are complex garments with multiple layers, made up of a combination of special fibers and materials to provide the necessary protection.
When does bunker gear expire?
In North America, bunker gear has an expiry date of ten years. In Europe, there is no set expiry date; however, it’s generally recommended that they are not used for longer than ten years. Regardless of how many years have passed, the highest priority should always be placed on ensuring that the garment still fits your needs and purpose, and keeps the wearer safe.
Can bunker gear be recycled?
It is very challenging to recycle this particular type of PPE. This is because bunker gear is made up of a variety of different materials and components, all drawn from different suppliers. This can comprise of anywhere between 20 - 50 different elements, including not just fibers, but velcro, cuffs, straps made from special polymers, zippers, and more.
At present, we do not have the technology to be able to effectively pull apart and sort this complex fusion of elements. However, the protective clothing industry is actively trying to tackle this challenge and find a solution for the future.
In the meantime, one thing we can do to lessen our environmental impact is think about how we dispose of bunker gear. Some manufacturers have programs in place to dispose of bunker gear thoughtfully once it has expired, so do check directly with your manufacturer if this is a service they offer.
Ensuring the best lifetime for your bunker gear
While the protective clothing industry seeks out a solution for recycling bunker gear, the best thing to do is make sure we take care of bunker gear so that it safely serves its purpose for as long as possible.
Appropriate storage of bunker gear is critical to ensuring its longevity, and its ability to retain its safety properties. Bunker gear should be stored in a dark, dry location. It should be kept away from extended exposure to sunlight, which can degrade its performance. Furthermore, bunker gear should never be placed on the floor, but should be hung up, ideally in a locker. Keeping it in a locker also protects against any pollution or cross-contamination of the garment.
Finally, it’s crucial to ensure that bunker gear is cleaned regularly, and swiftly undergoes any essential repairs as needed. Ultimately, we can never skimp when it comes to making sure the garment is protecting the wearer — this must be our highest priority.