Edelrid have done what no other climbing manufacturing company has managed to do and that is to make a certified climbing rope from recycled, post braided climbing ropes. Many people will know and remember that a few years ago Edelrid started producing the Taipan, Parrot and Boa Eco's which were made from the yarns that were previously considered as waste. These were yarns taken before the braiding process. This process is "up-cycling" as it was taking a raw material destined for the bin and using it to weave into a new rope.
Now with Edelrid's latest milestone they have been able to take a complete climbing rope, post braiding, process it back down to it's basic polyamide form and recycle it to create completely new yarns. So by now being able to recycle, they have closed the manufacturing loop of climbing ropes in their German factory, creating a zero waste climbing rope production line.
The process of creating a recycled climbing rope has taken Edelrid six years of research and development. The reason being is that every time you recycle a plastic, the integrity of the plastic degrades some what. You can't produce a plastic polyamide as pure as the virgin new material. This is fine when you are recycling into non-PPE gear like t-shirts, chalk bags or water bottles (which Edelrid have been doing for years). But when you are talking about extruding a polyamide yarn only a couple of microns thick, and which will be braided into a piece of PPE that is life saving, the recycling process has to be so pure that the material retains nearly all of its raw qualities.
Essentially what Edelrid have done is a breakthrough in recycling manufacturing, maintaining the plastic in its purest form and as close to the integrity of the raw material as they can. This is obviously great for the climbing industry but is sure to have a flow on effect to manufacturing and recycling in general throughout all other industries.
1. Start With The Waste Pre-Consumer Climbing Rope
Take the ropes considered as waste in the manufacturing process. Blend them up to create a grist
2. Process the Grist
The grist is then melted down and processed into a material form called agglomerate.
This is the hardest and most costly part of the recycling process. The Agglomerate needs to be refined to be as pure as possible so as to not have any contaminated particles at all. Eventually when the nylon yarns are extruded at only a couple microns thick, any particle of dirt or anything could significantly damage the integrity of the yarn or block the extrusion machine.
Process the agglomerate into a form that can be fed back into the extrusion machines.
5. Create the Yarn
Extrude the nylon to create new yarns
6. Braid Your New Rope!
Same as a standard rope make from raw ingredients, you can now put the yarns to work and braid them into a new rope!
The End Product - The New Edelrid Neo 3R 9.8mm Climbing Rope
From when Edelrid first made a 100% recycled rope in their R&D department that passed all the safety tests to be certified as a UIAA single rope, it took them a further two years to refine the manufacturing process so they could bring the technology to market. The first model of rope to be brought to climbing consumers is the Neo 3R 9.8mm . This is a great "all-round" climbing rope, perfect for cragging, sport climbing, trad climbing, gym climbing and multi pitches and is the perfect balance of performance and durability for the general climber. This particular model is made from 50% recycled material and 50% new. Why? Well because this is a new technology the recycling process is still very expensive. If they made a rope for market that was 100% recycled it would likely be at a price where no one would purchase it. Being at a 50/50 makes the Neo 3R climbing rope a descent price and hopefully encourages climbers to get on board with the new technology. The hope is that in time, if it is adopted by the climbing community, the increase in numbers or recycled ropes will bring the price of manufacturing down and eventually will become standard practice.