25 tons of plastic down, a long way to go: Trek’s new sustainable packaging

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Trek’s packaging materials for its complete bikes and frames have historically incorporated quite a lot of bubble wrap and other non-recyclable plastic — and given the number of bikes the Wisconsin company sells year after year, that amounts to a literal mountain of waste.

Starting earlier this year, Trek quietly began modifying the packaging for its most popular single model — the Marlin hardtail — transitioning much of the non-recyclable plastic to more environmentally friendly materials, such as corrugated cardboard. According to Trek, the change has so far kept almost 23,000 kg (50,000 lb) out of landfills, and the company plans to eliminate all non-recyclable packaging materials (save for two small bits) from the Marlin and a few other flat-bar bikes some time in 2021, with the longer-term goal of using exclusively 100% recyclable, plastic-free packaging across the board. Already in development is new packaging for the company’s road bikes.

“We set out to reimagine this product, simplify it, and decrease our impact,” said Trek packaging development manager Kevin Rogers via press release. “But packaging is only one step on our broader path; another big one is education.”

Part of that education will include guidance to retailers and customers on how to properly dispose of the new packaging, including a public marketing campaign on where all of the new bits should go.

According to Trek, the move to more eco-friendly packaging is just part of a larger commitment to more sustainable practices company-wide, joining other outdoor companies such as Prana, GSI Outdoors, LifeStraw, and others in the Responsible Packaging Movement.

Several smaller companies — such as Bjorn and Vaast — have already been on this path for bike packaging, and a growing collection of component and soft-goods brands have hopped on the bandwagon as well, so it’s clear that it can be done. However, given Trek’s size, these changes can’t come soon enough. Keep in mind that Trek is a billion-dollar company, and while these changes are admirable, the Marlin is still but one bike model in the corporate umbrella. If that one small move has already cut out 23,000 kg of plastic, how much is left, not just from Trek, but industry-wide?

Stay tuned for more from CyclingTips on this topic in the weeks and months ahead. It’s a deep rabbit hole, and we intend to dive in headfirst.


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