Every bicycle tube has a story to tell. They may have once carried a carbon fibre 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 kilometres 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.
In the UK, bicycle 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, there aren’t statistics available, or sufficient environmental legislation to help tackle the problem. But this is not deterring premium Cape Town cycling apparel company, Ciovita, in taking matters into their own hands.
“At Ciovita, we feel we have a responsibility to our beautiful planet, and are always thinking of new ways to reduce waste, recycle and upcycle to lessen the environmental impact that cycling has,” says Ciovita CEO, Andrew Gold. “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 its creation. It is this philosophy that led us to starting our own Upcycled Tube Project whereby one of our valued employees, Eunice Setona-Thelejane, repurposes used bicycle tubes into new exciting products such us our tube wallets and tube pouches.
“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 products,” Gold explains.
“Eunice selects each tube, cleans and cuts it, and then meticulously pieces together the material, purposefully allowing old serial numbers, patches and past blemishes to continue to tell the story of the tube’s multiple lives.
“She is directly benefiting from the project. A highly skilled machinist with decades of experience, she used to make the journey from Malmesbury to our Woodstock offices every day. This meant waking at 4:00 in the morning to catch the first bus into the city, and arriving home late into the evening. So, we gave her sewing machine to enable her to work from home, helping her save valuable time.”
Ciovita encourages bicycle users in and around Cape Town to drop off any inner tubes to be disposed of at its concept store in Woodstock, located at 117 Sir Lowry Road.