New Recycling Program for Bicycle Tubes is Coming to a Bike Shop Near You

recycled bicycle tyres
Cyclists in the U.S. Can Recycle Used Bike TiresCraig P. Jewell - Getty Images

Schwalbe, the German manufacturer, makes all kinds of tires—bike tires, wheelchair tires, and inner tubes, all of which eventually end up in a landfill.

For years, the company has been hard at work to make more sustainable products. Earlier this year they announced the release of a bike tire made entirely from other recycled tires. Now they’ve also launched a project that will recycle inner tubes as well.

Recycling rubber and keeping it out of landfills

The Schwalbe tire recycling system was first unveiled at Eurobike in 2022. BikeRadar reported that with this program Schwalbe partnered with the recycling technology company Pyrum Innovations.

The two-step process first separates the rubber, textile fibers, and steel in order to produce rubber granules. Those granules can then be used in making brand new tires.

Releases less carbon dioxide—a lot less

Schwalbe says its recycling process causes an 80 percent reduction in the amount of carbon dioxide released in the production of a new tire. Why? Because essentially the entire process fuels itself.

The rubber granules are heated to 700ºC in a pyrolysis oven, which causes a gas to be released. The gas is used to power the plant with electricity, increasing the sustainability even further.

“Cradle-to-Cradle” bicycle inner tube recycling

And more recently, the company announced its “Cradle-to-Cradle” bicycle inner tube recycling program in the U.S. Schwalbe says that even when all transport routes are accounted for, only one fifth of the energy is consumed when compared to the production of brand new butyl rubber.

“The impact of discarded bicycle tubes on the environment is significant,” the company said, according to Cycling Weekly. “Millions of tubes end up in landfills every year, where they can take hundreds of years to decompose. The production of new tubes also contributes to greenhouse gas emissions and consumes non-renewable resources.”

Currently, around 20 percent of every new standard Schwalbe tube consists of recycled materials. And they’re working to further increase this proportion of recycled material each year.

Starting June 1st, 2023, Schwalbe will begin a pilot program in the U.S. to accept used tubes from designated bike shops and dealers.

Hundreds of years to decompose just because of a tiny puncture. It’s tough not to think about how many tubes you’ve discarded after an annoying flat. Hopefully this is the first of many tire and tube recycling efforts we’ll be able to tell you about.

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