how sustainable are your bike tyres and tubes?

Bicycle 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 going tubeless and reducing the amount of tube wastage from endless flats.

Schwalbe appear to be leaps and bounds ahead of any other major brands in their commitment to sustainability of bike tyres and tubes. 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 consumers money in the long run. While this may not seem to make economic sense for bicycle retailers on the face of it, we know that you already know that the customer service and honesty you provide in demonstrating you have their 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 3mm 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.
image credit: Schwalbe

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

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.

Image credit: Latz Report, Dec 2019

In Melbourne, Charlie Woolley has established TyreCycle, through which he works with local bicycle retailers to collect and repurpose used tyres.

“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 fit’s each shop’s designated space. He’ll typically visit each bike shop to collect their tyres every four to six weeks” ~ Phil Latz, Latz Report Dec 2019

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…

feature image credit: Cycling Industry News UK