The world’s first recycled dynamic climbing rope.

(This story originally featured in Wild #179)

For me in the past, the only way I’ve recycled old climbing ropes is to cut ‘em up to use to tie down things on the car or round the house. Wait, that’s not recycling; that’s re-using, isn’t it? So I guess I’ve never recycled ropes. Actually, no one has ever recycled ropes, at least not to create new dynamic climbing ropes.

Until now, that is. After six years of painstaking research, Edelrid has found a way to do so. While simply recycling the plastics in ropes to make other products is relatively straightforward, recycling them to create dynamic ropes is far more difficult. There are quality issues involved—the recycling process generally leads to lower quality material—and safety issues; climbers’ lives are literally on the line. But Edelrid managed to create a production process that ground up re-used pre-consumer rope—essentially they put leftover rope back into the production cycle—and turned it into agglomerate, which they then re-granulated. This was spun into a high-strength yarn. Then they had to figure out how to complement that yarn with other suitable recycled and new materials so that the levels of strength and elongation necessary for a high performance dynamic rope could be achieved.

In December 2018, the company finally managed to create its first rope of 100% recycled material. But because of the complexity of the procedure, it took another two years to figure out how to develop the necessary production process. But in 2021, the world’s first recycled rope, the NEO 3R 9.8mm—fully-certified to EN 892/UIAA standard—will finally be on sale.

It will only be half recycled material, though. Edelrid admits many climbers will ask, “Why only 50%?” Well, because of the low volumes and complex production process, recycled yarn costs three times as much to produce as new yarn. To keep the cost down, and thus increase the uptake of the new ropes, the decision was made to balance the ratio of recycled to new yarn at 1:1.

The ropes will be arriving in Oz by May/June.

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