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June 14, 2022
by Colin Reis
I recently bought a new watch online. This particular watch manufacturer is known for investing heavily in their marketing, so it was no surprise that the packaging the watch came in was extravagant.
When I opened up the package, I found a thick black piece of shiny paper with the company logo branded on it, a little packet made from more shiny paper, and inside that was an accordion of more paper explaining the company’s mission statement and history. Inside the watch box there was a little black pillow that the watch rested on, and another packet that contained separate cards with more information on the watch, and a thank you card.
I couldn’t help but think how wasteful all of this material was. Besides the watch box and cute little black pillow, most everything else was disposed of, (throwing what I could in the recycling bin). How many people have done the exact same thing, and how many more people will?
While these shiny and professional looking materials could be considered good marketing, was it really necessary to include? I already drank the kool-aid and came to the decision to order it. Couldn’t there be a way to direct me to that information online, or at least consolidate the information within the packaging?
Riding a bicycle is very environmentally friendly, and Cane Creek is a company that makes bicycle parts, so it doesn’t make sense for a company that advocates riding bikes to package their products in a way that is not environmentally friendly.
The Cycling industry is a part of the Outdoor industry, and the outdoor industry has a big problem with using wasteful plastics (specifically polybags) in their packaging. While polybags are technically “recyclable”, they are widely rejected at recycling centers. Just because a material can be broken down and turned into a recycled version of itself, that does not mean any recycling center will accept that material. If a recycling center cannot find a market to sell the recycled material to, they will not recycle it.
Considering the pandemic fueled boom of digital shopping, one could expect the amount of plastic packaging waste will increase. According to a recent article in Outsider Business Journal, if things don’t change we could be looking at 3.95 billion pounds of plastic waste from global e-commerce by 2024.
While Cane Creek is not yet completely green, we’ve made some significant changes in the last year to our packaging to be more environmentally friendly, and we plan on making more changes. Unfortunately, it does take some time to implement changes like this to any operation – you have to start at the very beginning, wherever the source is – for us that is our vendors overseas, and at our facility in Fletcher NC. (If you have not yet experienced some of these changes personally, rest assured they are coming).
Our new packaging is made from 100% recyclable cardboard. It’s not flashy – in fact we consider its sole purpose is to get the product to the customer in a safe and secure way, because what’s inside the packaging is what really matters.
We hand-build every shock and fork in our facility in Fletcher, NC, and those shocks and forks used to be packed with plastic materials, now they are packed in eco-material that is 100% recycled, recyclable, and reusable.
We’ve implemented scannable QR codes in our packaging to direct customers to the product’s instructions and technical information – this eliminates the physical copies of instructions in the packaging.
We are slowly working towards eliminating non recyclable plastics incoming or outgoing. We continue to work with our suppliers on sustainable packaging solutions. We have begun to replace the non recyclable Mylar plastic bags that some of our small parts and components were packaged in, for recyclable LDPE or HDPE plastic pouches and lockable cardboard envelopes.
It doesn’t end there – with the inevitable waste that is produced, you have to find creative solutions to recycle or reuse it. Let’s face it, recycling is not easy – in most cases it’s harder to recycle something than it is to throw it away, particularly when it comes to bulk waste and manufacturing operations. One of the hurdles we face at Cane Creek is finding recycling centers that will accept certain materials. If the process was easier and if there were more opportunities to recycle more materials, one could easily assume that more recycling would occur.
When we receive parts that were packaged in non recyclable plastic, we will reuse the plastic in our own assembly processes sometimes 2-3 times over, so if you do happen to see plastics in our packaging, it is likely on its 2nd, 3rd, or 4th use.
We joined the WNC Brewery Recycling Cooperative to help aid us in our recycling efforts. This cooperative was created to help improve recycling in our region by creating infrastructure for recycling bulk industry waste that would otherwise go to a landfill. While it started for the many breweries we have here in WNC, it is open to any business that is interested.
The goal of this post is not to pat ourselves on the back – it is to bring more awareness to this ever growing problem, and hopefully inspire other businesses and people to engage in similar initiatives. The more people we can get to contribute to this cause, the more streamlined reducing waste could be.
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