Every bicycle tube has a story to tell. They may have once carried a carbon fiber racer, abused downhill bike or a beloved single speed. They have taken riders on countless journeys to new and exciting places; they have been part of group rides and solo missions, racking up hundreds of kilometers on the tarmac or on dusty gravel roads.
But, like all good things, bicycle tubes have a lifespan and when they split or puncture or become too old to be relied on anymore they unfortunately all share a final destination - the landfill.
A Global Problem
In the UK, bicycle inner tubes have been earmarked as one of the five priority waste types with new legislation coming into place in the form of the 2020 Environment Bill proposing that the dumping of these tubes will be made illegal. It is estimated that in 2018 alone, 44 000 tonnes of inner tubes were dumped in UK landfills. Another study conducted in San Francisco estimated that the city discarded enough rubber tubing per year to wrap the Golden Gate Bridge 33 times.
In South Africa, we don't even have statistics or the environmental legislation to help tackle the problem. However, at Ciovita we feel we have a responsibility to our beautiful planet and we are always searching for new ways to reduce waste, recycle and upcycle to lessen the environmental impact the sport of cycling has on the planet. These measures can be seen in the way our factory is set up and our commitment to finding performance fabrics that use recycled plastics in their creation. It is also this philosophy that led to us starting our Recycled Tube Project.
One Man's Trash...
When we speak about our wallets and pouches we prefer to use the term upcycled as opposed to recycled. The project isn't about breaking down rubber tubes and then using the materials, instead a tube is selected, cleaned and cut, then meticulously pieced together purposefully allowing old serial numbers, patches and past blemishes to continue to tell the story of the tube's multiple lives.
When it comes to recycling one of the biggest challenges with synthetic rubber is also its greatest strength - the material is incredibly hard wearing and doesn't biodegrade easily with natural decomposition taking 100 years or more. However, this means it is the perfect material for re-purposing into new, exciting products. Our tube wallets and tube pouches not only help keep rubber out of landfills, they also provide new employment opportunities for textile workers in South Africa.
Eunice is one of our employees who is benefiting from the Wallet Project directly. A highly skilled machinist with decades of experience, Eunice makes the journey from Malmesbury to the Ciovita offices every day. This means waking at 4am to catch the first bus into the city and arriving home late into the evening.
To help improve this situation Ciovita have sponsored a sewing machine for Eunice, which allows her to work from home and remotely produce wallets. This means that she is able to work better hours and spend valuable time with her family.
Where to from here
Our goal is to continue to grow this Upcycling Project to provide new opportunities within the textile industry and further reduce waste. For our fans in Cape Town, if you have any inner tubes you need to dispose of, they can be dropped off at our concept store in Woodstock.