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How Sustainable are Bicycle Tyres and Tubes?

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Anna’s most recent blog provided some initial discussion around the sustainability and ethics of cycling products, primarily focusing on cycling kit and apparel. We continue the theme this month, to help position you to respond to customer queries and curiosity in this space.

This month, we look at tyres and tubes – arguably the most short-lived of any bicycle component.

For this reason alone, there is merit to a sustainability argument for the advantages of tubeless tyres.

Schwalbe appears to be leading the way in their commitment to sustainability. Quality is a great starting point – the durability and longer life span of a quality tyre (or quality ‘anything’ for that matter) is more sustainable in and of itself than cheaper, shorter-lived competitors. And will likely save your customers money in the long run. While this may not seem to make economic sense for you on the face of it, we know that you already know that the customer service and honesty you provide in demonstrating you have your customers’ interests at heart will win you loyalty and repeat business.

Schwalbe admit they have not yet reached their goal in their commitment to a sustainable product design from cradle to grave but are on track for it. Initiatives being taken by Schwalbe include:

  • Green guard – a three millimetre thick, green puncture protection belt made of natural rubber and one third from recycled material;
  • Recyclable tubes – 100% (be sure to tell your customers this); and
  • Green compound – tread rubber constructed of polymers sourced exclusively from renewable and recycled raw materials.

Other brands who are showing some commitment to tyre and tube sustainability include Maxxis and Continental.

If you’re the importer or a retailer of any other tyre brand that has taken initiatives in relation to tyre and tube sustainability, then please contact us and we will also add your information.

In other news on tyre sustainability, the UK is making it illegal to scrap bike tyres. Dumping of automotive tyres in the UK has been illegal since 2003 and the Environment Bill 2020 will prioritise tyres as one of the top five waste streams:

“The scheme, which is to be run by Velorim Limited, will see participating bike stores, workshops, hire schemes and cycle refurbishment centres all become local collection points. All rubber collected will be reprocessed into new materials or re-used in other ways, with zero going to landfill and none exported”. – Cycling Industry News, UK

The good news is that tyres can be recycled into a vast array of products, including soft impact playground surfaces, road surfacing, brake pads, commercial flooring and synthetic oils (source: Tyrepower).

Tyre Stewardship Australia (TSA) is one organisation here in Australia working to create productive outcomes for end of life tyres. TSA was formed to promote the development of viable markets for end of life tyres. Individual bicycle retailers can find out more to become accredited and/or request a tyre collection.

The December edition of The Latz Report included an article about Charlie Woolley’s TyreCycle repurposing business in Melbourne.

Woolley was, until recently, working in the health care industry. But he’s a keen cyclist who didn’t want to throw his used tyres and tubes into the regular rubbish.

He asked around at his local bike shops and discovered that there was no bicycle tyre recycling service available, so decided to set one up himself.

Charlie provides participating bike shops with a wooden crate, that he custom builds from recycled timber to a size that fits each shop’s designated space. He’ll typically visit each bike shop to collect their tyres every four to six weeks.

Charlie Woolley, TyreCycle Melbourne

For more information about the TyreCycle scheme you can email Charlie at recyclebiketyres@gmail.com, visit www.recyclebiketyres.com or phone 0411 057 683.

You can also catch up on a 2017 Bicycling Trade survey about industry recycling of old tyres and tubes. Seems the issue has been around for a while now…

Next month we’ll take a look at sustainable bikes, saddles and helmets.

Anna Gurnhill is Managing Director at Anna Gurnhill Consulting which provides a range of professional services in the cycling industry. Key competencies include audience research, content development, editing and copywriting, marketing, business and product development, and strategic partnership development. https://annagurnhillconsulting.com | AnnaGurnhillConsulting@gmail.com | 0400 843 858

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