PRESS RELEASE: Thousands of carbon fiber bicycles end up in landfills each year, and Specialized wants to change that.
Based on existing carbon fiber recycling programs used by the aerospace industry, Specialized is steering bikes away from the landfills and back into usable goods. The California bicycle company will be doing this by working with bike shops to collect damaged carbon frames and transport them to a U.S. recycler. The program will expand to its EU operations as soon as appropriate resources are identified.
The process of recycling carbon fiber consists of chopping the frame into smaller sections, then burning off the epoxy that holds the fibers together in an oxygen-free environment. This results in shorter fibers with the same properties as the original material that can be used in a variety of ways.
“You’re probably not going to make a bike from recycled carbon, but you can make a range of products with the shorter fibers. For example, Boeing recycles its stabilizer fins into armrests,” said Bryant Bainbridge, Specialized’s Sustainability Strategist. “Besides keeping these frames out of the landfill, you’re recovering carbon with significantly less energy than it took to make virgin material.”
“Specialized is committed to addressing what happens to our bikes at end of life because it’s the right thing to do. But this program isn’t about being brand exclusive,” Bainbridge said. “Trek is also doing good work here and every company in the industry that produces carbon products is encouraged to join in the effort.”
Going forward, participating Specialized dealers will accept carbon frames (from any brand) which will be picked up by Specialized and shipped to Materials Innovation Technology for recycling. Specialized will report back to the industry at the 2012 Eurobike and Interbike shows on the number of frames recycled, the amount of carbon fiber recovered, and what has been learned.
“At that time we will make a formal call for an industry coalition to recycle carbon fiber,” Bainbridge said. “This is a shared industry problem and one we all need to address. We are going to pick up the tab now, but we want everyone on board. This is about collaboration, not egos. Come Eurobike, we’ll share everything we’ve learned.”
Specialized recently joined the Outdoor Industry Association Eco-Index working group, and is an active participant in the creation of a comprehensive system for evaluating and improving a product’s environmental footprint.
Specialized will contact its dealers in January about the specifics of how to handle carbon frame returns and the start date for the take back program.