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Trek Announces Big Plastic Packaging Reductions

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Amongst their many positive benefits, bicycles are renowned for their environmental friendliness. So it’s ironic that when you unpack and assemble a new bike, you end up with a huge pile of rubbish, much of it single use plastic.

As well as this being bad for the environment, it also clogs up bike shop bins and adds to dealers’ labour and rubbish removal costs.

As we previously reported here, last year Trek announced that they were going to review every packaging item they used and move to 100% recyclable and plastic free packaging.

At the end of June 2021 Trek announced its first-year results from incorporating lower-impact and recyclable materials in its bike packaging. Targeting plastic waste, Trek said it removed 433,600 pounds (196 tonnes) of plastic from bike boxes and Bontrager accessory packaging.

Their goal is to make all bike boxes from Trek, Electra, and Diamant (their European brand) 100% recyclable and all packaging plastic-free by 2024.

Trek focused on converting plastic packaging to paper-based alternatives, Chris van der Linden, Trek product designer, explained, “Paper and cardboard were already present in older packaging iterations but are now our first-choice materials in Trek’s packaging. Furthermore, consumer-facing packaging has completely eliminated plastic laminates from their cardboard packaging, which makes recycling our packaging even easier for customers.”

Last year, Trek joined the Responsible Packaging Movement. The fashion brand Prana launched the movement early in August 2020, and other brands who joined include GSI Outdoors, Merrell, and LifeStraw. Last year, Specialized and VAAST, among others, announced more sustainable bike packaging. Cannondale also announced it is adopting 100% recyclable packaging in Europe.

In summary for complete bike packaging Trek removed in its first year:

  • 111 tonnes from Marlin, Verve, and other entry-level adult bikes.
  • 30 tonnes from e-bikes Rail, Powerfly, Allant, and Electra Townie Go!
  • 26 tonnes from kid’s bikes (including Kickster, Precaliber).
  • 18 tonnes from Madone, Supercaliber, and other high-level adult bikes.
  • 5.7 tonnes from Electra Townie 7 and 9.

Trek also targeted its Bontrager parts and accessories display packaging and said it eliminated 11,600 pounds (5.2 tonnes) of plastic through the removal of plastic pieces or replacement with a matte aqueous coating, a biodegradable that doesn’t affect recyclability.

Van der Linden said packaging plastics remaining include fork axle protectors, axle caps, foam caps, and reusable plastic bags for smaller pieces. He said they were working to find a plastic-free solution that offers the same high standard of protection as their plastic predecessors.

In Trek’s second year of focusing on sustainability, it will target removing zip ties, foam, and forms of non-recyclable plastics from distribution and consumer-facing packaging.

A longer version of this article was first published in Bicycle Retailer and Industry News.

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