Landfills occupied by mountain bikes tyres aren’t great for the environment. Schwalbe wants to change that.
Upcycling and sustainability have been powerful themes in mountain biking during 2021.
Most brands are revaluating their sourcing, packing and shipping, to reduce the environmental impact of producing frames, components and riding gear. And that includes tyres.
Tread might be gone – but what about that casing?
In mountain biking, tyres present a unique usability and recycling challenge. It takes very little absolute wear for a tread pattern to be considered below its grip threshold.
Most tyres are discarded as ‘used’, despite having a casing that is still structurally sound, with only a small percentage of the total tyre – its tread bocks – having been worn.
Schwalbe wants to be cleverer about how tyres are processed when discarded. Since 2015, it has been focused on recycling its inner tubes, but now its technology curve is moving towards complete tyre recycling.
In partnership with Pyrum Innovation, a German expert in thermal decomposition, and the Technische Hochschule Köln (University of Applied Sciences), Schwalbe wants to see fewer tyres, in a landfill.
A future of upcycling
The goal is to create a closed-loop economic system, with sophisticated thermal decomposition allowing most of Schwalbe’s tyres to be recycled.
Although Schwalbe’s technology journey with Pyrum Innovation will not create traditional remoulds, it will release secondary raw materials.
Engineers are Schwalbe are confident that future tyre products can use a significant percentage of these recycled raw materials. Without sacrificing the grip or durability that mountain bikers have come to expect from the German tyre company’s extensive range of trail, enduro and downhill riding rubber.
The German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) is supporting the project to reduce the burden on landfills, in Europe’s most industrialized economy.
With Schwalbe being one of mountain biking’s biggest suppliers, its rival will undoubtedly monitor progress. And that could trigger a cycle of competitive innovation to benefit the entire mountain bike tyre market.