Yeti coolers last an extremely long period of time (mine is now going into it's 7th year of life) but if and when your Yeti does come to it's inevitable end it would be nice to be able to recycle it rather than simply sending it to landfill.
But is it possible to recycle a Yeti cooler and if so how would you go about it?
Unfortunately you can't recycle Yeti coolers (both the hard and soft varieties).
Hard Yeti coolers are made from an outer shell of polyethylene which is recyclable, however it's filled in with polyurethane foam which is not commonly able to be recycled. If you could remove the polyurethane foam then the shell of the Yeti cooler could be recycled, however this isn't really feasible for most people.
Soft Yeti coolers are made from closed cell rubber foam, a waterproof outer fabric and metal zippers, all of which aren’t recyclable.
However, because Yeti coolers are made to last for several decades, you won’t have to worry about recycling them for a long time.
To prevent them from going to landfill, you can upcycle them for regular storage, planter boxes or you can offer them to people for a fee (or for free) on sites like Craigslist or Facebook marketplace.
Can You Recycle Hard Yeti Coolers?
Hard Yeti coolers have a thick outer polyethylene plastic shell, and a hard inner polyurethane foam that fills up the walls and solidifies giving the cooler strength and insulation.
While polyethylene is one of the most common plastics and is commonly recycled, in order to recycle your Yeti cooler you would need to detach the polyethylene outer shell from the polyurethane foam inside.
As you can see in the image above this is not a simple thing to do as the polyurethane sets hard and is attached to the plastic.
It may be possible to pull this apart and separate the plastics but it would involve first cutting apart the Yeti cooler and manually removing the exterior shell (somehow).
This isn't something that's achievable for most people and simply recycling the entire Yeti cooler will end with it being discards due to the presence of the polyurethane.
At the end of its long lifespan, this means that your hard Yeti will either end up in a landfill or you’ll need to donate or upcycle and find another use for it.
Still, because your Yeti should last for many decades, it’s still much more eco-friendly than cheaper models because you won’t have to continuously replace it.
Are Soft Yeti Coolers Recyclable?
Unfortunately, soft Yeti coolers are not able to be recycled easily either. There are some minor parts that could be recycled but it involve pulling the cooler apart for a relatively small amount of recyclable material.
Soft Yeti coolers have a fabric DryHide outer shell. This consists of tightly-woven fibers that are bonded with a special membrane that makes it water and leakproof. This is one of the many great features of Yeti coolers but unfortunately makes the fabric unable to be recycled.
You can’t recycle this outer fabric shell because it’s impossible to separate the membrane from the recyclable fabric.
The zippers themselves are non-recyclable. Perhaps you could recycle the metal zipper slider piece because it's made from metal but that's about it.
With their superior insulating properties, both hard and soft Yeti coolers can keep food and drinks cold and safe to consume for several days, resulting in less food waste and reducing the chances of getting a stomach bug.
When put in a landfill, food waste rots and releases methane gas, which is more harmful to the environment than carbon dioxide.
How To Recycle or Upcycle Yeti Coolers
Rather than simply throwing your Yeti cooler in the bin and sending it to landfill it's worth trying to pass on the Yeti cooler to someone else who could get use of it or upcycling it for a different usage.
Passing Your Yeti Onto Someone Else
If your Yeti is in good condition (or even if it's in poor condition) some people might want it.
You may be able to get some cash for your Yeti cooler by selling it online and often Pawn shops will buy Yeti coolers too. However, you'll likely make more money selling it to a friend, relative or to someone or Craigslist or Facebook marketplace.
If your Yeti cooler is in too poor a condition to sell you could still offer it for free on one of these sites. You'd be surprised who might love to have and use your beat up old cooler and who will find a use for it as a cooler, for some other use or even to strip it for parts.
Upcycle Your Yeti Cooler and Find a Usage For It
You could also find usage for your old Yeti cooler as a planter box or even hard storage container in your shed or garage to help keep items dry.
When not in use I regularly use my Yeti cooler (and other coolers) to store things in my garage.
You could even use the thick insulating walls of the cooler for some other DIY project as the polyurethane foam is a great insulator and also doesn't come cheap.