Pinkbike Poll: Have you ever recycled a frame?


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As environmental issues become more and more difficult to ignore, many discussions take place and claims are made about the environmental impact of different materials. The fact that aluminum can be recycled over and over again is often cited as a major environmental advantage over carbon fiber,

There is some truth to this. Aluminum is widely recycled, which requires around twenty times less energy than making a virgin material and, most importantly, it really pays off to do so. In fact, in some places, recyclers will pay you for scrap aluminum. Carbon fiber, on the other hand, is not often recycled. At best, it’s cut out and made into a reinforced plastic that can be used for something like a brake lever or the sole of a mid-range cycling shoe, but not another bike frame. When this reinforced plastic reaches the end of its (second) life, it is usually sent to landfill. So even when a carbon fiber frame or component is recycled, it is usually a one-way process, more accurately described as off-cycling rather than recycling.

But when companies and reviewers talk about how recyclable their aluminum frame is, it makes me think: does anyone actually recycle their mountain bike frame? While aluminum is easy to recycle, bike frames are made from aluminum alloys that contain many other metals, and they are usually painted; this makes it more difficult and less profitable to recycle compared to pure aluminum.

The last time I went to my local recycling center, I saw a lot of rusty and unloved children’s bikes in a shipping container destined for who knows where, but not a single mountain bike made during of the last twenty years. Not even one with a hub axle spacing that we now know is unusable.

Maybe some of those classic mountain bikes are still ridden, but I doubt many are. When was the last time you saw an Orange Patriot or Iron Horse Sunday on the trails? They were everywhere, so where have they all been? Have many been recycled or are they just sitting in a loft somewhere?

Until these bikes are sent to a landfill, there is hope that they will eventually be recycled, but if the average bike is used for ten years and then stays in a loft for another twenty, c There is a lot of aluminum removed from circulation for a long time, which means that more must be produced in the meantime. So if you recycled a frame, how old was it at the time?


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Wiley C. Thompson

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