Plastic waste has amassed into a huge environmental and health issue for our planet. While we often think of single-use plastics as the culprit, even plastic products that are used many times, like ski boots, play a role. When old ski boots reach the end of their life cycle, they most often end up in landfills or are burnt in waste-to-energy plants. Tecnica, the leading international ski boot manufacturer based in Italy, is proud to announce the Recycle Your Boots initiative to provide an end-of-life solution to this problem. The project, launching in the Alps region this fall, aims to contribute to protecting the planet by recycling used ski boots into secondary raw material, saving resources and reducing CO2 emissions.
“The idea is pretty simple,” explained Maurizio Priano, Marketing and Brand Manager Blizzard Tecnica. “We will make it possible for skiers to return their old ski boots of any brand to partner retailers, and then recycle them through a transparent and sustainable process.”
While the idea may be simple, the Recycle Your Boots project is based on a complex and innovative process. To collect, transport and recycle old plastic ski boots into reusable secondary raw materials, Tecnica has set up a sophisticated system that combines craftsmanship and manufacturing expertise with support from academic research institutes to predict, monitor and measure the effectiveness of the project. However, the most critical element will be mobilizing the skiing community, its retailers and consumers.
“Recycle Your Boots is more than just a recycling project, it’s a new business model,” asserts Giorgio Grandin, Head of Innovation Tecnica Group. “For the first time, we are not simply creating and selling a product, but setting up a fully-integrated sustainable process: production, transport, consumer use and recycling.”
The old ski boots will be collected by retailers and transported in small batches to reduce emissions. The Italian company Fecam will remove the liners and dismantle each boot to separate the plastic and metal components. All parts will then be transported to the nearby Laprima Plastics plant and transformed into secondary raw materials, such as plastic granules and recovered aluminum, ready to be recast and reused in industrial production. In addition, the liners will be shredded to make new padding.
“Tecnica’s goal is to enable people to live their passion for mountain sports and enjoy every single moment of skiing,” continued Priano. “If we want this to continue in the future, we must all play our part in defending our playground and supporting our community. The Recycle Your Boots project will reduce the skiing industry’s footprint, while support the local mountain economy by driving traffic to retailers.”
The University of Padova is a strategic partner to the project. Its role is to measure the resulting production and disposal of ski boots, to further reduce and minimize impact as much as possible. The researchers will monitor the Recycle Your Boots process to measure the benefits in terms of CO2. The Recycle Your Boots project has applied to the European Commission’s LIFE program, the EU’s funding instrument for environment and climate action, and is currently under evaluation. Beginning in autumn 2021, the Recycle Your Boots project will commence at select retailers across the Alps, in Italy, France, Switzerland, Austria and Germany. The plan is for Sweden, Norway and Spain to hopefully join the program soon after. While implementing in North America comes with its own set of challenges, the hope is to extend the project to this side of the Atlantic if the right partners and processes can be put in place for it to succeed.
“We are at the beginning of a new way of conceiving ski boots and their life cycle,” continued Giorgio Grandin. “Recycle Your Boots is not the definitive answer, but it’s an innovation that has the potential to get us closer towards achieving a circular economy in the ski industry.”