Velorim have fifty sites ready to collect used tyres and inner tubes with a view to increase that number to two hundred and fifty.
Pete had a chat with the team at Velorim to find out where the idea came from and how you go about stopping all that rubber being destined for the landfill.
What was the inspiration for starting Velorim?
Velorim Ltd originated out of the dire need of an alternative method to put the scrap tyres to use. Richard Lawrence, One of the founding directors at Velorim says, “Russ Taylor and I are also Trustees of a charity, Cycle-R that refurbishes and recycles donated bicycles. During the refurbishment process approximately 50% of these bikes are scrapped and broken down into: Steel, Alloy, Plastic and Rubber (Tyres, inner tubes, hand grips, etc). Of these, the steel, alloy and plastics are onward processed through standard collection and recycling routes. However, we have been unable to find anyone in the world who will collect bicycle tyres at this scale.”
Richard claims that this created the core idea for Velorim. The company has been set up as a stand-alone organisation to offer this service to the UK cycle industry
Why do you think no organisation has been recycling tyres and tubes to date?
Bicycle shops and retailers have no direct methods for the disposal of scrap tyres and inner tubes through standard waste collection routes. According to research this is approximately 44,000 tonnes of scrap bicycle tyres, inner tubes and other cycle related rubber products annually. Standard collection services will generally refuse to take them as they are considered complex waste.
 Extrapolated from a 2018 survey conducted by Inovaplus Ltd
How many people are involved in Velorim and what do they do?
3 people are involved in Velorim.
Technical Director Technical Director for Inter-Digital Networks (IDN) now known as SSE Telecoms Energis – Delivery of national carrier network over National Grid InovaTEC Ltd, pioneer of temporary wireless and high-speed data communication services in the events sector
Commercial Director Singlepoint/Vodafone. Redevelopment of call centre training methodologies, developing single user interface Tanzania. Development and implementation of Tanzania’s first official casino The RoK Group. Rescue and restructuring of major pharmaceutical firm. Initial restructuring of a Russian Motorcycle Manufacturer
CEO Senior executive within global conglomerate BTR plc. Head of Procurement at Unipoly, global £1bn manufacturing group. General Manager, Sorbothane UK (sports insole manufacturer). Managing Director at Independent Buyers (UK’s leading buying group). Author, Dancing with Dragons, Swimming with Sharks.
And what’s involved in collecting unwanted tyres and tubes?
The not-inconsiderable costs of running the scheme will be borne by the consumer. This will be achieved by each Velorim Centre applying a recycling levy on each scrap tyre and tube received. We recommend 50p per tyre and 20p per inner tube, although the exact figure is up to the Velorim Centre.
Some have elected to charge more whilst others waive the fee entirely if the customer spends a minimum figure in store. There has been no consumer push back on this charge. All collections are chargeable, plus there is a setup fee but this becomes net zero if the recycling levy is applied.
How do you plan to get shops and the public engaged in recycling these items?
Shops, hire scheme, workshops and charities are already signing up at a steady and sustainable rate which means we are likely to hit our planned milestones. We are delighted that the UK cycle trades leading wholesaler, Madison, has agreed to sponsor the trade rollout. The full launch to the public is not planned until later in 2021 and we are in discussions with major brands that are considering sponsoring that launch.
Can you talk us through the recycling process?
We have set ourselves the constraints of:
And have appointed ands independent auditor who will issue a quarterly report on how we are doing.
What sort of products can be made from the recycled material?
We are in discussion with several universities on options for end of life bike tyres and are carrying out trials on many of them. The rest of the tubes are currently being aggregated prior to being converted into Velo-ButyleneTM. We are in early stage discussions with half a dozen companies who are looking into buying Velo-Butylene for their manufacture of pool liners, flooring, cycle products, etc.
The rest of the tyres are currently being aggregated, prior to a first stage shred (to remove the metal). At this point some may be sold for Equestrian menage surfacing with the remainder undergoing a second stage shred (to remove fibre). We are investigating outlets for both the resultant fibre mix, and the rubber crumb. Further processing would turn the rubber crumb into Velo-SBRTM.
Chief Executive, Dave Hawthorn commented that having been involved with dozens of businesses including several startups, this is the only one he has known where customers regularly contact the business asking to sign-up. “It is a real delight to know that we are providing a service that is desperately wanted by the cycling community, and one long overdue,” he said.
All startups are beset with challenges, and Velorim is no exception. On potential disaster that was avoided was that an early plan was to move tyres in a large bag, not dissimilar to a builders’ bulk bag but twice as tall and on wheels. It was a great idea but when we actually filled a sample bag with 150 tyres, we found that it was so unstable it simply rolled over onto it’s side and laid flat on the floor. “It looked like a dead cow and was about as easy to move as one!”
CEO Dave Hawthorn commented. “I can only imagine how annoyed the stores would have been if we used that bag.”
Where next for Velorim?
Once the PR campaign begins, in Spring 2021, we expect a measurable increase in footfall at Velorim Centres with ecologically conscious riders seeking out a place to take the old tyres that are currently gathering dust at the back of the garage. Once the scheme is up and running, we are advised that the UK government will implement planned legislation that will legally prohibit the disposal of bicycle tyres. This action will drive yet more consumers to the Velorim Centres.
Anyone to thank?
We have been bowled over by the support shown by manufacturers, retailers, hire schemes, workshops, recycling centres and the media who all want to work together to Make Cycling Green.
Dave Hawthorn, CEO of Velorim adds, “ I am very grateful to all the stores, workshops, hire schemes and charities that have taken part. This work has shown that not only is the industry serious, the cycling public is also very supportive. We have learnt that the scheme is viable, scalable and most importantly will rid the UK of the blight of land-filling bicycle tyres.”
For everything Velorim-related, head over to their website here.