Some 10 million tubes are thrown away in the United States alone each year, and Schwalbe’s Cradle-to-Cradle recycling program seeks to transform them into new, high-quality tubes instead. The program will be rolled out in the US shortly, and you can learn more about it here…
Germany’s Schwalbe, makers of tires, tubes, and other accessories, has been operating recycling programs in five EU countries for the better part of a decade now, through which they’ve recycled more than nine million bicycle tubes and transformed them into fresh ones. In fact, every standard Schwalbe bicycle tube sold today consists of 20 percent recycled content, and they’re constantly working to continue increase the recycled content of each of each new tube without adversely affecting the overall quality.
Their Cradle-to-Cradle design philosophy is guided by sustainability and aims to develop a closed-loop system in which materials can be continuously reused and waste can eventually be eliminated. With this vision guiding their recycling program, used tubes become new tubes, and the overall energy consumption decreases by more than 80 percent compared to making tubes from the same quantity of new material. In their words, “This process is the foundation of the tube recycling program, which seeks to minimize waste, conserve resources, and create a circular economy in which products are designed to be repurposed and reused indefinitely. For us at Schwalbe, the Cradle-to-Cradle design philosophy has been the inspiration for many years.”
As of next month, Schwalbe will be launching their Cradle-to-Cradle tube recycling program in the United States. Designated bike shops can collect tubes from any brand or manufacturer for recycling, and once they have up to 45 pounds of used tubes, they can send them to Schwalbe free of charge via USPS. Used tubes are then transported in containers to their recycling plant in Indonesia, where their partner Hung A uses an in-house devulcanization process to recover butyl rubber from the used tubes and recycle the remaining materials, which are then used to create new tubes.
We’re excited about the possibility of creating closed loops in manufacturing and recycling materials to be perpetually used again, though it’s hard not to wonder about the environmental trade-offs that come with shipping tubes all around the country to be collected, then across the world to be recycled, then back around the world to be resold. Hopefully, Schwalbe can someday bring the full Cradle-to-Cradle process to more regions around the world that can operate independently in smaller loops, reducing the need to send materials on a journey around the world to be recycled. Still, keeping millions of tubes out of landfills each year is a good thing, and we commend Schwalbe’s efforts and hope to see this kind of program continue to flourish in other sectors of the bike world and beyond.
You can learn more about the program at SchwalbeTires.com.
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