You may have heard or even used the phrase “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” before, but never has it been more true than when two companies from Germany and the Netherlands came together to create an all-new kind of personal transport.
German company igus and Dutch company MTRL have formed this partnership to create what they are now calling the igus:bike, and what makes it so special is the fact that it is made from 90 percent recycled plastic waste. Let’s see how all this came together.
The igus:bike – A recycled marvel
If you were thinking that it’s just a few meaningless components on the bike that are made from those recycled materials, you should think again. In fact, the recycled parts include igus:bike’s frame, forks, wheels, and gears, so this is a serious and sustainable personal transport project.
The igus company is no stranger to recycling troublesome plastics. In fact, it has been their core business for the past half century. Their signature tribologically optimized plastics have already been used in vehicle production, as well as in the agricultural and robotics industries. Their first foray into bike technology was supplying self-lubricating motion plastics for mountain bikes in the US back in 1990.
The CEO of igus, Frank Blase, was inspired to bring an all-plastic bicycle to reality after visiting Florida and being dismayed at the condition of rental bikes that were suffering due to exposure to sand, wind and salt water – riddled with corrosion. He knew that his corrosion-free recycled plastics were the answer, but just about any other plastic bicycle concept was just that…a concept.
Making low-friction plastic happen: Partnering with MTRL
In 2019, igus made an investment in Dutch startup MTRL, thus forming their new partnership that would eventually produce the igus:bike. Their first-generation models are made with 90 percent recycled plastic materials, but the partnership maintains an aim to achieve a 100-percent rate in the near future. MTRL and igus claim, in fact, that they are quite close to this goal.
Each igus:bike represents about 35-lbs (around 16-kgs) of plastic waste being reused. To prevent friction, they are built with integrated solid lubricants. It makes use of a Gates Carbon Drive Belt to shift rider power from the crank to the rear wheel, and international tire giant Continental has supplied the tires.
From prototype to production
Unlike many similar concept bikes, the igus:bike already has a working prototype that has been shown at various trade fairs after its initial debut at the Hannover Messe in May 2022. MTRL is preparing its production model to launch later this year with an estimated cost of about €1,400 (approx. US$1,430). The company is also planning on a virgin-plastic model, which will be more affordable.
So it seems this isn’t just one of those wild ideas that exists only in CGI renderings. The igus:bike is almost here, and should provide residents and visitors to places like Miami with a much more lasting alternative to traditional bicycles. On top of that, the world will have yet another avenue through which to push plastic waste to make it productive once more.