Why do rubber bands disintegrate after a few years?

I used to secure bundles of paper or other loose items with rubber bands. I quickly learned that it only takes a few years for them to harden and break. I had some paperwork damaged in a drawer because the rubber band partially melted leaving sticky residue on the paper.

Why do rubber bands fail after a few years? Why is the rubber so unstable?

I’ve started using zip ties instead for cords or wiring. They don’t work very well for paperwork. There’s really nothing better than rubber bands for certain tasks. I wish they didn’t fail after a few years.

They oxidize. Additives are put in the rubber to slow the process down, but as long as you’re storing them in an oxygen-containing atmosphere, they’re going to deteriorate.

You can try looking for plastic rubber bands that don’t rot but I don’t think they stretch quite as well. Office supply stores should carry them.

I use pony tail hair ties for things I know will be in storage for a long time. The cheap ones will lose their elasticity over time, but they won’t rot and stick to whatever they’re securing. The good ones like Scunci tend to last a long time though.

they are organic. light and oxygen break apart the molecules/

Not exactly what the OP was asking, but the question reminded me of this video:

Short clip of Richard Feynman talking about rubber bands.

Tip: those fabric wrapped elastic hair ties don’t become sticky. Or you could use string.

I believe they’re reactive because of C=C double bonds, which react easily with oxygen/UV light. Like unsaturated fats which spoil faster.

fabric wrapped rubber bands/elastic does deteriorate over time. the synthetic material breaks down and does flow.

Oh, does it leak outside? I’ve never seen one sticky.