Santini switches to compostable bags for all “technical” clothing

Move is expected to remove mountains of difficult-to-recycle plastic

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You may recall from the last time you purchased cycling clothing that each items arrived neatly folded inside of its own plastic bag. Although facilities to exist to recycle many of those bags, they’re far from universal, and doing so usually requires more than just tossing the bags into your dedicated curbside bin.

Italian cycling clothing Santini has announced that it is now switching to fully compostable bags for all of its “technical” clothing for 2021, using wrappers made by Israeli sustainable packaging specialist TIPA. According to TIPA, its compostable material will “completely disintegrate within six months and fully biodegrade within a year.” Furthermore, the materials is supposably comparable to conventional plastics in terms fo shelf life, durability, transparency, flexibility, and printability, so at least in theory, buyers shouldn’t notice any significant differences from what Santini was using prior. 

“This environmentally-friendly choice is part of a broader company strategy that spans everything from prioritizing Zero Miles suppliers to manufacturing using recycled fabrics,” read a press release that was issued by Santini. Missing from that release was any sort of estimate as to the total amount of plastic that would be shifted over to TIPA’s compostable bio-material, but an earlier initiative by Santini at least provides some sense of scale.

Santini recently switched to a completely bagless distribution system for all the team clothing for Trek-Segafredo, placing each rider’s complete wardrobe — more than 200 pieces each — all together in one large cardboard box, instead of bagging each item separately as usual. Santini and Trek-Segafredo estimated that the change eliminated roughly 3,000 bags, or about 150 kg (331 lb), of plastic. And instead of shipping all of that clothing to each rider, it was simply handed to them in-person at team camp.

Granted, professional riders receive far more clothing than the average amateur, but remember that we’re still talking about a small number of riders in total. It’s also worth pointing out that several smaller cycling apparel brands (such as Ornot and Kitsbow) have already been using compostable clothing bags. But Santini is a fair bit bigger than either of those brands, and when extrapolated out to the company’s total global production, it seems safe to say the company’s move will save an awful lot of plastic from ending up in landfills.

As positive a change as this is, there remains the obvious question: why does all of this clothing have to be put inside plastic bags to begin with? Unfortunately, much of it has to do with the expectations consumers have in terms of the condition of new clothing, along with the logistical hurdles involved with maintaining that condition from the factory all the way to the end user.

“Most warehouses require everything to be individually packaged,” one of the founders of Ornot told us. “I could go on an on about the hurdles regarding packaging and how using virgin plastic is essentially ‘free’, when the actual cost is far from it.”

We’ll be chatting with the folks at Ornot about this specific topic soon, so stay tuned for more.

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