Tech Podcast: The bike industry’s packaging problem

The packaging materials that protect bike products and make them look desirable on shelves pose a problem for an industry that touts itself as eco-friendly.

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When a bike arrives at the bike shop, or on your doorstep, it is wrapped within a sea of packaging that includes foam, zip ties, cardboard, and plastic galore. Accessories and apparel also get swathed in excess materials, very often to enhance the unboxing process and build prestige and excitement for the consumer.

All that packaging gets thrown in the trash minutes later.

The bicycle industry often touts itself as an eco-friendly alternative to automobiles, and it certainly is that. But in terms of packaging, sourcing materials, and landing products in a consumer’s hands, the industry has a long way to go to make itself truly eco-friendly.


On this week’s episode of the VeloNews Tech Podcast, tech editor Dan Cavallari talks with Velocio Apparel’s CEO, Brad Sheehan, to get to the bottom of why packaging is such a problem in the bike industry. Since its founding, Velocio has used sustainable packaging that can often be composted after use. It’s certainly a more environmentally friendly option than plastic bags and other non-recyclable products, but Sheehan notes that such options come with a higher price tag — something that was worked into Velocio’s DNA, and budget, from the start.

Companies that have been operating for decades change more slowly, however. Big ships turn slowly, as the saying goes, and there are plenty of considerations that go into making a company more environmentally friendly. Most manufacturers at this point have some sort of plan in place to reduce packaging waste, though some lag far behind others (I recently received a box big enough to contain a bike saddle, but it contained just three packages of energy chews).

Companies like Specialized have set a good example — Specialized bikes ship in cardboard boxes without the foams and plastics common in other bike boxes, for example. Instead, Specialized uses recyclable packing materials, reduces or eliminates zip ties, and even cuts down on the amount of cardboard used to create the box itself.

If you have questions about this podcast or any of the other tech podcast episodes, or if you have recommendations for topics you’d like us to cover on a future episode, you can get in touch with tech editor Dan Cavallari via email, Twitter, or Instagram.


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