Resources of every kind are set to become scarce
Raw materials such as steel, aluminium, copper and oil exist in finite quantities.
The largest populations of our planet lie within the developing nations which are experiencing a dramatic cultural shift from that of self-supporting subsistence agriculture to urban factory work. Fuelled by the economic growth delivered to them by trading with the west, as wages and prosperity have increased so too has the demand for consumer items such as mobile phones, white goods, televisions and cars. Whilst this increased prosperity and rise in living standards is to be celebrated, the net result is an exponentially increasing consumption of our planet’s limited resources and raw materials. In short, there are not sufficient global resources to continue to feed the rapidly rising demands of the world’s population.
Almost all goods are currently supplied on a “take, make and dispose” model, also known as a “linear supply chain”:
- Raw materials are taken out of the ground
- They are then manufactured into something and sold to the “end user”
- The product is thrown away at the end of its life or when the end user has finished with it, usually ending up in a landfill site.
Linear supply chains are incredibly wasteful and ultimately unsustainable. It is estimated that globally we dump 2.12 billion tons of waste every year (1) and that 99% of the materials used to make the things we buy are thrown away within 6 months (2). This may seem implausible until you consider how long you use something like a takeaway coffee cup – probably around 10 minutes from the time you purchase and drink your coffee before it makes it to the bin. Consider also the materials and energy that were used to make that cup; the harvesting of trees for paper, the distance those materials were transported to the factory, the wax coating, the plastic lid and the many miles the cup likely travelled before reaching the coffee shop….
In a linear supply chain the best we can hope for a product at the end of its life is that instead of being sent to landfill it will be recycled. Recycling is certainly preferable to landfill but does not offer a sustainable, long term solution. Not only is recycling generally very energy hungry but the resulting materials are often downgraded to a lower quality, thus losing their original valuable properties.
Islabikes have always been designed and made with longevity in mind and are renowned as lightweight yet robust and serviceable bikes for children which can withstand the rigors of use by successive young riders. Unfortunately, as with any bicycle, due to the natural fatigue of the materials they are made from they will eventually reach the end of their useful life. When this happens there is no established mechanism to recover and reuse all of the precious materials which are used in their manufacture.
In the future our plan is to transition from the traditional linear “take, make, dispose” supply of bicycles to an innovative, sustainable circular product and service. We are calling this the “Imagine Project”.
(1) United Nations Environmental Programme. (2009). New Science and Developments in our Changing Environments, [online], p.45. Available at: http://www.unep.org/yearbook/2009/
(2) The World Counts. World Waste Facts, [online]. Available at: http://www.theworldcounts.com/counters/shocking_en…