Sustainability a driving force in product development
Although cycling itself enjoys a reputation as an emission-free alternative to a car, the bicycle industry is waking up to the importance of adopting sustainable production processes. Many companies are now channelling their R&D into producing the most sustainable products possible. Whether that be a focus on raw materials, recycling/end of life or energy usage in the production/transportation phase, sustainability is increasingly becoming a driving force in innovation development.
Schwalbe tyre recycling project a big step forward
Eurobike 2022 marked the start of the bicycle tyre recycling program of Schwalbe. As the first bicycle tyre manufacturer worldwide, Schwalbe and its cooperation with the Technical University of Cologne and Pyrum Innovations have succeeded in developing an innovative and holistic tyre recycling process.
The pilot project for the recycling program was launched already in November 2021, after years of preparations. “The bicycle is the means of transport of the future. Besides the growth of our company we want to focus more and more on the topic of corporate responsibility,” confirms Frank Bohle, managing director of Ralf Bohle GmbH.
After decades of research as well as an elaborate pilot project, Schwabe in close cooperation with its partners have achieved a breakthrough. The project represents a quantum leap in holistic environmental awareness and ecological responsibility. Until now, used bicycle tyres were incinerated, the raw materials were lost, climate-damaging CO2 is released. Now new tyres are being made from used ones.
The pyrolysis idea was born in a garden shed. Founder Pascal Klein developed it into a start-up that is now listed on the stock exchange and a pioneer in the pyrolysis process. Pyrum currently runs the only tyre-pyrolysis plant in the world that produces year-round. The process is done in two steps. At first used tyres are shredded in four stages what results in: rubber granules, textile fibre and steel. After that the rubber granulate goes into the pyrolysis oven at 700°C in the absence of oxygen. As a result, the gas that comes from this process provides for the electricity needs of the pyrolysis plant which runs completely self-sufficient. The oil: goes to BASF and is used, for example, in textile fibres while the pyrolysis coke (rCB) are further processed into recycled carbon black (rCB).
“Recycling should not be done at any price. We are only satisfied with the result when the quality of the recycled materials meets the necessary level with which we can produce Schwalbe quality again. That‘s why we are researching so intensively with the team from TH Cologne and Sebastian Bogdahn,” explained Holger Jahn, Schwalbe‘s COO during the presentation at Eurobike. “The vCB, which is important for tyre production, is to be completely replaced by rCB in the future.”
Dutch manufacturer Roetz designs an e-bike for life
Born from a circular mission, Dutch bicycle company Roetz has turned its attention to designing a less polluting electric bicycle. Following three years of development, the result is an e-bike that is designed to last a lifetime through the use of a modular and reconfigurable design, high-quality materials and a data-driven service concept.
Both the demand and supply of e-bikes have never been higher, a development which is posing major challenges. “The e-bike contributes significantly to one of the fastest growing waste streams in the world: electronic waste or ‘e-waste’. While a normal bicycle regularly lasts 20 years with the right care, we no longer see e-bikes from ten years ago on the streets. We wanted to do something about that,” says Tiemen ter Hoeven, founder of Roetz.
“Our designers, mechanics and technicians have spent three years designing a circular, future-proof e-bike. Roetz Life is made up of individual modules that are easy to replace or repair, even if new innovations – such as a more sustainable battery – enter the market in the meantime. This way you get a bike that will last a lifetime instead of being discarded unnecessarily early.”
Circularity is an essential part of Roetz’s corporate DNA. “We believe that a sustainable future is only possible if producers take responsibility for the entire chain of their product. That is certainly challenging, but that doesn’t stop us from making the best possible choices,” says Tiemen ter Hoeven.
Locally sourced materials
In addition to a very thorough selection of materials largely produced in the Netherlands and Europe, all bicycles are built in their own social factory in Amsterdam, the Fair Factory. In addition, the Roetz Life includes a monitoring system that identifies repair needs at an early stage to extend the life cycle of the materials. Broken parts are repaired or replaced at home by a mechanic. If necessary, bikes are taken back to the Fair Factory to be prepared for the next life.
igus unveils urban bike made from recycled plastic
To help the transformation from the traditional linear economic model and migrate to a fully circular economy, igus has been developing and investing in ideas for recycling plastics for many years. At the Hannover Messe, the company presented a world first concept of a robust, durable urban bike made entirely of plastic, from frame to bearings to toothed belt. As an expert in plastic for all kinds of moving parts, igus has made the engineering concept and key components of its urban bike available to all bicycle manufacturers. The first model should be available by the end of the year.
Re-using ‘single use’ plastic
A special feature of this new bike is that the recycled version will be primarily made of reused plastics originally which were original meant for ‘single use’. “The plastic in dumps around the world is becoming a valuable resource,” explains Frank Blase, igus CEO. He first had the idea following conversations with employees of a bicycle rental company near a beach. Their bikes were continuously exposed to sand, wind and saltwater and sometimes only lasted three months before they had to be replaced.
igus:bike does not rust
The igus:bike is easier to own than any other bike. Owners can leave the single-speed bike outdoors in all weather and clean it in seconds with a garden hose. “As all components are made of plastic, no part of the bike rusts, even the gears. Bicycle gears made of plastic were unthinkable for a long time,” says Blase. “Lightweight, lubrication-free high-performance plastics are used in all parts of the bicycle, from two-component ball bearings in the wheel bearings to plain bearings in the seat post, brake levers and pedals. All of these components have integrated solid lubricants and ensure low-friction dry operation, without a single drop of lubricating oil. This ensures that sand, dust and dirt cannot accumulate.
“We want to enable the bicycle industry to produce plastic bikes,” says Blase. “The platform is intended to become a contact point for manufacturers who want to build a plastic bicycle and for all manufacturers of suitable components, such as plastic frames, wheels, drives, and pinions. The platform is already hosting initial corporate collaborations.”