Buckle Up

As you've probably noticed, we've integrated recycled seat belts into most of our products. This isn't exactly a haphazard design choice on our part. Although the belts lend themselves to use in almost every one of our products, we are also consciously choosing to use something that would otherwise fill up landfills. Seatbelt webbing is pretty great because as with all recycled materials, we can never really tell what we're going to get. It depends on the make and model of the cars that are hanging out at the junkyard at the time, which means that color and quality are never guaranteed. We think this unpredictability is sort of fun.

A while back I got to thinking about all the metaphysical meaning in our using seat belts to make utilitarian wares for bicycle enthusiasts. Its like dismantling the cars to empower the cyclists, which is pretty romantic if you ask me. In addition to our beloved bicycles having themselves very low waste as a transportation scheme, now we've additionally taken on the reuse of waste created by the automobile industry. Steel, for its great value as an industrial resource and easy recyclability, is rescued from junkyards as a rule. The steel industry generally boasts a near 100% recycling rate for automobiles, which is measured by comparing the amount of steel recycled from automobiles each year to the amount of steel used to produce new automobiles in the same year. But while the metal elements of cars are reused, the interiors of cars—Fluff Waste, the broad term used to describe the parts of cars that are utterly un-recyclable by conventional definitions—accounts for a significant amount of waste which is frequently taken from junkyards to landfills. Seat belts are routinely a part of this Fluff. That is except for those lucky few that are whisked away and stitched into fancy belts for fancy bicycle minded folks.

Who ever thought cars and the steel industry would become an emblem for an effective large scale recycling model? But they really are. It works is because it is actually more expensive to create steel from scratch than to reuse recycled steel, which makes recycling an economically advantageous business practice rather than an ethical one. Furthermore, steel scrap is a necessary ingredient in producing new steel. As I see it, the economic incentive here isn't really a problem. It actually means that the likelihood of recycling is exponentially increased by compelling businesses to recycle using the logic of business.

Fabric Horse isn't exempt from this same idea. We may do things pretty different from traditional small businesses, but there is still an incentive for us to use recycled seat belts instead of brand new ones because they are cheaper and readily available. And because of this economic incentive, the decision for us was a no-brainer. Now, because we ARE environmentally conscious and happen to love the personality of used seat belts, we might make the same decision if the financial cost of new and used seat belts were equal. But not necessarily.

And this unknown outcome of decision-making echoes throughout recycling initiatives, which are most successful when they employ incentives. Recycling will never be widespread if municipal programs rely solely on the hope that people will always do the right thing, buy blue bins, and separate out the glass and plastic from the paper. In many cases, recycling seems to work best when companies who put out products that create waste in turn oversee the recycling of the waste they've created, as some dairies have done with milk jugs and brewers have done with bottles. In this concept, each step of the recycling chain is unified under a common overseer which can't help but make the system more efficient and more effective. But overwhelmingly, most recycling resources agree that the key to promoting recycling is to increase the demand for the reclaimed material. Which means that when you purchase things made from recycled materials and when you consider using recycled materials over new ones in your own projects, you increase the viability of recycling. And by this logic, when wearing your FH goods, you are a subtle beacon of environmentalism. Way to go.

1 comment:

  1. I thoroughly enjoyed this post. As an owner to a company that also recycles seat belts for bicycle use I know exactly what you mean. Seat belts are one of the hardest thing to recycle out of a car minus the battery. It's also quite ironic to use a car product towards bicycle use.

    It is interesting to see what junked cars produce the best belt product. We've come across some pretty wild colors!

    Keep up the great work we love your U-lock holders!

    Ben Woodling
    Feetbelts LLC.