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Trek's updated bike packaging saves 433,000 pounds of plastic

Published June 30, 2021

WATERLOO, Wis. (BRAIN) — Trek Bicycle announced its first-year results from incorporating lower-impact and recyclable materials in its bike packaging. Targeting plastic waste, Trek said it removed 433,600 pounds of plastic from bike boxes and Bontrager accessory packaging.

The goal is to make all bike boxes from Trek, Electra, and Diamant 100% recyclable and all packaging plastic-free by 2024.

"Wow! That is really exciting," said Bryant Bainbridge, former Specialized Bicycle Components director of corporate responsibility who holds a degree in environmental studies and first worked as a wildlife biologist. "Hats off to Trek for taking this important step."

Trek focused on converting plastic packaging to paper-based alternatives, Chris van der Linden, Trek product designer, told BRAIN.

"Paper and cardboard were already present in older packaging iterations but are now our first-choice materials in Trek's packaging," van der Linden said. "Furthermore, consumer-facing packaging has completely eliminated plastic laminates from their cardboard packaging, which makes recycling our packaging even easier for customers."

Last year, Trek joined the Responsible Packaging Movement. The fashion brand Prana launched the movement early in August 2020, and other brands who joined include GSI Outdoors, Merrell, and LifeStraw. Last year, Specialized and VAAST, among others, announced more sustainable bike packaging. Cannondale also announced it is adopting 100% recyclable packaging in Europe.

Trek President John Burke "is really committed and leading the charge for a more sustainable bike company," van der Linden said. "The empowerment of the various departments and teams within Trek to reimagine their sustainability efforts has fueled this reevaluation."

Trek released specific numbers from its bike box sustainability efforts. It removed:

  • 246,000 pounds from Marlin, Verve, and other entry-level adult bikes.
  • 58,000 pounds from kid's bikes (including Kickster, Precaliber).
  • 40,000 pounds from Madone, Supercaliber, and other high-level adult bikes.
  • 12,600 pounds from Electra Townie 7 and 9.
  • 65,400 pounds from e-bikes Rail, Powerfly, Allant, and Electra Townie Go!

"It is critical to reducing our reliance on plastics, and hopefully, this will be the inspiration other brands need to start similar programs," Bainbridge said. "With the typical bicycle box weighing as much as 8 pounds, there is an incredible amount of material dedicated to shipping bikes across the industry. The bike box is ripe for a complete rethink that results in the lightest possible structure that both optimizes cube space in shipping and delivers the product to retail safely. The good news is that light-weighting packaging reduces your environmental footprint and saves cost. This is the kind of low-hanging fruit that delivers on the triple bottom line: profit, people and the planet. Congrats to Trek!"

Trek also targeted aftermarket packaging and said it eliminated 11,600 pounds of plastic through the removal of plastic pieces or replacement with a matte aqueous coating, a biodegradable that doesn't affect recyclability. It removed:

  • 1,700 pounds from nylon straps.
  • 5,000 pounds from plastic laminates.
  • 1,300 pounds from plastic hangers.
  • 2,500 pounds from mountain bike grip packaging.
  • 810 pounds from glove packaging.
  • 160 pounds from saddle covers.
  • 130 pounds from tire sealant injectors.

Van der Linden said packaging plastics remaining are fork axle protectors, axle caps, foam caps, and reusable plastic bags for smaller pieces "as we work to find a plastic-free solution that offers the same high standard of protection as their plastic predecessors."

In Trek's second year of focusing on sustainability, it will target removing zip ties, foam, and forms of non-recyclable plastics from distribution and consumer-facing packaging, van der Linden said.

Topics associated with this article: DEI and Sustainability

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