The amount of energy saved by recycling used goods versus manufacturing new ones is up for debate, but reducing the amount of waste that goes into landfills is not, and that's exactly what Schwalbe
aims to achieve with their used tire recycling pilot program. The development of the innovative feedstock system comes with help from Pyrum Innovations AG, a German-based company that specializes in building and operating plants to thermally decompose organic materials, and the Technische Hochschule Köln – University of Applied Sciences.
Supported by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi), the project is researching how to develop a sustainable recycling system for used bicycle tires. Currently, unwanted tires are incinerated or buried in landfills and the goal of the collaborating partners is to change this to a closed-loop economic system by recovering the raw materials. In particular, Schwalbe plans to take the secondary raw materials from the recycling process and put them towards brand new products.
As it stands, Schwalbe, states that all of the bicycles tubes they manufacture are 100% recyclable. They started a project back in 2015 to collect used tubes from dealers, recycling and reusing them to make tubes of equal quality. Schwalbe is continually becoming more sustainable and won the German Sustainability Award 2021 in the ‘Pioneers’ category.
We've reached out to Schwalbe to ask if their full intent is to build on this process and manufacture tubes and tires from 100% recycled rubber. Pryum Innovations AG is an innovative recycling technology company based in Germany. On the basis of the worldwide patented, unique thermolysis process, the company develops, builds and operates recycling plants, with the help of which Pyrum extracts raw materials of high quality from used tires, rubber and plastic waste and feeds them back into the material cycle. The raw materials obtained include thermolysis oil, for which Pyrum has received REACH certification, and recovered carbon black (rCB).
Schwalbe has now implemented its tube recycling initiative in Switzerland with the help of Zibatra Logistik AG, becoming the fifth country in the program to recover discarded tubes of any brand at any bicycle retailer. Almost six million tubes have been recycled since 2015 with Schwalbe's devulcanization process throughout Germany, Great Britain, Belgium and the Netherlands. The program is set to begin in North America in early 2022 with the tire recycling to follow suit as well, once logistics are in place.
Shops simply register for the program, collect old tubes, box and then ship the unwanted ones to Schwalbe free of charge. The process also won Schwalbe the Eurobike Green Award 2015, the Green Concept Award 2020 and the German Sustainability Award 2021.
When asked if Schwalbe's full intent is to build on this process and manufacture all tubes and tires from 100% recycled rubber in the future, their public relations manager, Steffen Jüngst, had this to say:
Is there a major difference in energy consumed to recycle and then manufacture versus simply starting over though?