The cycling industry is one of continual evolution, change, upgrades and developments. Every year manufacturers strive to bring out the next-best-thing, whether its integrated front and rear suspension (Bionicon), new suspension linkage designs (DW link anyone?) or tyres with a multitude of different tread compounds. The aim of all this is to eek out that last little bit of performance from the component (does the average punter really notice??), to draw attention to their newest product, or to justify price rises… Basically its a marketers dream.
As a consumer, one inevitably gets drawn into it all. Oh no, my forks dont have low AND high speed compression damping adjustments, I must buy new forks! may well be a thought the hapless weekend warrior as they read the latest cycling magazine.
Kit does come to the end of its life though, and it does get chucked out. Somehow its easy to remember to recycle your tins and cans, but your tyres with a ripped sidewall? Nah, it rarely happens. Think about frames too though, a fair bit of material goes into them, and a fair bit extra is used in the production and testing of them too.
The cycling industry seems to be taking note though. Carbon fibre (CF) is a frame manufacturers dream material I can be built strong (world cup DH frames), light (XC whippet frames) and comfortable (remember those Cannondale Scalpel chainstays?). Recycling CF is a bit of a nightmare though.
Recently both Trek and Specialized, two of the largest mountain and road bike manufacturers, have started or joined schemes to recycle excess CF from production, testing and warranty returns.
Trek has recently extended its pilot scheme with Materials Innovation Technologies, working on CF recycling. Whilst amounts will change on a month to month basis, they hope to be saving around two tonnes per month from going to land-fill.
Speciaized have become the first major bicycle manufacturer to join the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) Eco-Index, a group of companies aiming to analyse waste production and reduce their waste footprint during the design stages. Whilst the OIA Eco-Index looks at waste across the board, Specialized have a particular interest in CF recycling as there are yet to be any established recycling and take-back schemes in place for the industry. Through the OIA Specialized are hoping to draw in a range of manufacturers from the US and Europe to help build the scheme, aligning it to those already in place in the aerospace industry.
The CF recycling process is said to be highly efficient, using 96% less energy to reclaim it, compared to creating new fibre. The process involves burning off the original resin in an almost oxygen-free atmosphere, before reclaiming the strands of CF. These strands are then used with new resins to create chopped fibre composites which, although not as strong, can be used in a range of applications where the strength is not a critical requirement.
Its easy to be cynical about these news reports from the bigger companies. When you consider that Trek is only saving two tonnes of waste from land-fill per month, it can only be a tiny proportion of their waste. Specialized say they are committed to recycling their CF with the help of the industry, but have released no figured yet of what they are, or expect to save. This news has been reported on a range of industry and consumer websites (MBA included!), so its essentially free marketing.
But, is this a step in the right direction, as opposed to a convoluted form of greenwashing (which is undoubtedly costing Trek and Specialized some hard earned $$)? Of courses it is. Its not much, and its only 2 manufacturers (so far), but everything has to start somewhere. As time progresses and more companies (not just cycling related) get involved, it may well become standard practice. Hats off to them, I say. And if Trek and Specialized sell a few more bikes because of it, well, good on them.

The cycling industry is one of continual evolution, change, upgrades and developments. Every year manufacturers strive to bring out the next-best-thing, whether its integrated front and rear suspension (Bionicon), new suspension linkage designs (DW link anyone?) or tyres with a multitude of different tread compounds. The aim of all this is to eek out that last little bit of performance from the component (does the average punter really notice??), to draw attention to their newest product, or to justify price rises… Basically its a marketers dream.

As a consumer, one inevitably gets drawn into it all. Oh no, my forks dont have low AND high speed compression damping adjustments, I must buy new forks! may well be a thought the hapless weekend warrior as they read the latest cycling magazine.Kit does come to the end of its life though, and it does get chucked out. Somehow its easy to remember to recycle your tins and cans, but your tyres with a ripped sidewall? Nah, it rarely happens. Think about frames too though, a fair bit of material goes into them, and a fair bit extra is used in the production and testing of them too.

The cycling industry seems to be taking note though. Carbon fibre (CF) is a frame manufacturers dream material I can be built strong (world cup DH frames), light (XC whippet frames) and comfortable (remember those Cannondale Scalpel chainstays?). Recycling CF is a bit of a nightmare though.

Recently both Trek and Specialized, two of the largest mountain and road bike manufacturers, have started or joined schemes to recycle excess CF from production, testing and warranty returns.

Trek has recently extended its pilot scheme with Materials Innovation Technologies, working on CF recycling. Whilst amounts will change on a month to month basis, they hope to be saving around two tonnes per month from going to land-fill.

Speciaized have become the first major bicycle manufacturer to join the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) Eco-Index, a group of companies aiming to analyse waste production and reduce their waste footprint during the design stages. Whilst the OIA Eco-Index looks at waste across the board, Specialized have a particular interest in CF recycling as there are yet to be any established recycling and take-back schemes in place for the industry. Through the OIA Specialized are hoping to draw in a range of manufacturers from the US and Europe to help build the scheme, aligning it to those already in place in the aerospace industry.

The CF recycling process is said to be highly efficient, using 96% less energy to reclaim it, compared to creating new fibre. The process involves burning off the original resin in an almost oxygen-free atmosphere, before reclaiming the strands of CF. These strands are then used with new resins to create chopped fibre composites which, although not as strong, can be used in a range of applications where the strength is not a critical requirement.

Its easy to be cynical about these news reports from the bigger companies. When you consider that Trek is only saving two tonnes of waste from land-fill per month, it can only be a tiny proportion of their waste. Specialized say they are committed to recycling their CF with the help of the industry, but have released no figured yet of what they are, or expect to save. This news has been reported on a range of industry and consumer websites (MBA included!), so its essentially free marketing.

But, is this a step in the right direction, as opposed to a convoluted form of greenwashing (which is undoubtedly costing Trek and Specialized some hard earned $$$)? Of courses it is. Its not much, and its only 2 manufacturers (so far), but everything has to start somewhere. As time progresses and more companies (not just cycling related) get involved, it may well become standard practice. Hats off to them, I say. And if Trek and Specialized sell a few more bikes because of it, well, good on them.

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