Outdoor recycling

Back in the 90’s, I remember writing about outdoors manufacturers’ early excursions into the realms of recycling. It started out modestly, with a small percentage of material from recycled polyester drinks bottles going into the fabrics used to make fleece or waterproofs. Then gradually as the technology improved, it became possible to get a decent fabric made using 100% recycled material. A defining point for the likes of we journalists, who could now quote one of those “gee whizz” facts – that it takes 26 one-litre drinks bottles to make a single fleece jacket.

Then there was the company taking used aluminium beer cans, rendering them into a gaseous state to spray onto fabrics as a high-performance heat-reflective coating. All of these efforts were designed to reduce impact on landfill sites, as well as make better use of finite resources. Looking at the other end of the life of an item of outdoors gear, more effort was put into making the products more capable of being recycled. Of course, you could have something like a fleece jacket where the fabric could be recyclable, but not before non-recyclable components such as zips and poppers had been stripped off.

The blunt truth is that whether an outdoors product is made from recycled material, or is capable of being recycled at the end of its life, it’s never been a huge part of the decision-making process of prospective British purchasers. But in Germany, for example, where the environmental legislation is the toughest in the world, outdoors companies like Vaude have been pioneers in making outdoors products which are totally recyclable.

Of course there’s always been one form of recycling which I’ve particularly favoured, and that’s re-use. Walking boots are capable of being resoled several times before the uppers fall apart, but an awful lot of gear gets junked simply because the owner wants a newer model. Charity shops will take in clothing – and will either sell the second-hand garment, or dispose of it as scrap textiles if they consider it unsaleable. Whenever I’ve been on a trek, we always ask fellow trekkers if they have anything like gloves or even socks to donate for their porters, and quite often these days you’ll find charities collecting usable clothing to send off to a disaster zone.

The advent of Ebay has seen a thriving market in second-hand outdoors gear, but now, in a new initiative launched by Rohan founder Sarah Howcroft, you can do it for free. Recycle Outdoor Gear is an online marketplace where you can dispose of usable items of gear, and whether you’re selling or giving it away to charity, your listing will be free. I’ve already seen some pretty remarkable bargains on offer, and it’s nice to think that by supporting ROG, you’re helping the environment, helping others less fortunate than you, and maintaining the development and innovation that goes into new outdoors gear. Check out ROG at recycleoutdoorgear.com.

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