If you enjoy yoga and spends a little time every day in various poses, you know the struggle of using a yoga mat that’s past its prime. Some mats wear down faster than others, but as a rule of thumb you can plan to replace a mat every couple of years. So, finding a sustainable way to dispose of it is a top priority.
Fortunately, there are more options available than simply sending old yoga mats to the landfill. They can be reused in a variety of ways. But recycling them can be quite a challenge, although a new generation of yoga mat companies and products are making progress toward more sustainably made and recyclable designs using biobased and natural rubber materials.
How To Recycle Yoga Mats
Most popular yoga mats are made from vinyl, or PVC (plastic resin code #3), which is one of the most difficult plastics to recycle. Even if your local recycling center accepts PVC, they may not take yoga mats, so be sure to call first. If your local center won’t accept them, there aren’t many recycling options available.
A very few companies do accept old yoga mats for recycling. TerraCycle offers yoga mat recycling through its Sporting Goods Zero Waste Box program. Ranging in price from $142.00 to $290.00, your yoga mat can be recycled along with any balls, sporting equipment, exercise clothing, bags, and other items you might use on the field or in the locker room.
If you live in Europe, the Continuum Collective’s Second Flow Initiative offers to recycle any brand of PVC or rubber yoga mat. The organization partners will several mat companies to offer free return shipping for your old mat when you buy a new mat from a partner; if aren’t making a new purchase, there is a fee for the mailing label.
One mat company that offers a recycling program is LovEarth in Australia. When you purchase one of LovEarth’s sustainable yoga mats, they provide the option to request a mailing label so you can send them your old mat for upcycling or recycling. Not only will you get rid of an old PVC mat, but the new mat you purchase from them is biodegradable and much safer for the environment. BeJollie, a mat retailer, offers free recycling for buyers of new mats, as well as drop-off collection points in Houston, and donates money earned by its recycling partner to the Boston Children’s Hospital
Many companies have started yoga mat recycling programs, only to shut them down. Before you purchase your next mat, consider calling the manufacturer of your old mat to see if they have a take-back program. And check with the manufacturer of the new mat you’re purchasing to find out if they have a recycling program.
How To Reuse Yoga Mats
There are many creative ways to reuse old yoga mats to give them a little more life before it’s time for disposal. Here are a few suggestions, but you can explore even more ideas on Jade Yoga’s website.
Use as a Doormat
Use a few old mats as doormats. They’re perfect for guests to keep their shoes on and are also very easy to clean. Simply wipe them down to get rid of any dirt and they’re good to go.
Use as a Liner or Padding
Yoga mats work great as makeshift liners. Whether you use them in kitchen drawers or on bookshelves, these mats have just the right texture to hold things in place. Just measure the mat to the right size, cut it out carefully, and fit it into place. Old mats also work well under area rugs to stop slippage and add padding.
Use in the Garden
An old yoga mat can make a great kneeling pad for when you’re working in the garden. Just trim it down to the appropriate size. You can even cut a few strips and glue them together — or simply fold it over a few times — to give yourself even more cushioning.
Donate Your Yoga Mat
If you gave yoga a try for a while and then decided to quit, your mat probably still has some life left in it. You can reach out to local yoga studios or community and youth centers to see if they accept mat donations. In some cases, they will take them and give them out to others who can’t afford their own.
However you decide to recycle or reuse your old yoga mat, you’ll feel less stressed knowing you’re doing your part for our planet.
Editor’s Note: Originally published on January 16, 2019, this article was updated in October 2023.