Specialized have been trumpeting their new carbon recycling scheme and I like it. Other bike manufacturers offer similar plans and it makes sense on many fronts, indeed it is not just the cycle sector offering this, it is becoming widespread for many carbon products. Although if it sounds green, the energy processes involved in recycling don’t make this a giant leap in sustainability.
I’ve covered the manufacturing process of carbon before to show carbon is really plastic reinforced by carbon fibres. This can be undone with heat, you can melt the epoxy back out and it can be recycled.
At the same time I can’t help wonder if companies have an incentive to offer recycling plans as a means to encourage consumers to dispose of old frames and then buy new ones. It’s cynical, yes.
But we see this in the auto sector where part-exchange and scrappage payments are used to encourage motorists to trade in their old wheels for a new car. Is this the same where disposing of a frame becomes even easier, especially via the channels of major manufacturers?
Because carbon can be repaired. A crack here or a hole their, it can often be fixed and patched. Again to remind you, carbon fibres are matted and woven and in the absence of epoxy, they can be as soft as silk. Repairing carbon is a bit like darning a sock. You name it, it can often be fixed. Fishing rods, kayaks and of course bike frames. There are limits, especially when a carbon fame is bonded to metal, for example the bottom bracket shell.
So if you crash your frame and crack it, you can now recycle it. But don’t forget it can also be repaired and there are several companies offering this service.