Did you know that skateboarding will be an Olympic sport for the first time in Tokyo in 2020? The sport that has long been associated with rough, rebellious, and “just want to have fun” young people is going to get the Olympic audience “stoked.”
We have come a long way since skateboards were invented in the late 1940s by surfers in California who were looking for a way to entertain themselves when seas were calm. Skateboarding is also big business and growing. According to a report by Grand View Research, the global skateboard market size is expected to hit US $2.4 billion by 2025. And global exposure at the Olympics can only help it rise.
Making a board
One thing that hasn’t changed much is how a board is made; this has remained relatively unchanged since the ’90s. The raw material for most skateboards is still maple wood.
And as demand for boards increases, so does the demand for maple. With an estimated 100,000 boards produced each month, skateboard production has become a major contributor to maple deforestation.
Due to the cold and humid air in which they grow, Canadian maple trees grow slowly and produce wood that is strong yet flexible and difficult to break – perfect for skateboards. Each skateboard deck is made of seven layers of veneer, but only the lower part of the tree can be used for production.
As maple trees need 30 to 80 years to mature enough to harvest, it take a lot of time and space to get the right quality wood for a skateboard deck.
The production process also generates wood waste that often contains pigment, glues, and grip tape that can release hazardous chemicals into the air when burned for energy.
Skating on a “rad” sustainable product
Fortunately, some companies are trying to do their part to produce durable, sustainable skateboards. For example, Bamboo Skateboards. The San Diego-based company is using bamboo to produce skateboard decks, saying it is a “socially responsible company who believes that protecting the environment is as important or more important than quarterly profits.” It chooses to use bamboo wood, as it is naturally shock absorbent, lighter and stronger than maple, and grows so fast that it is endlessly renewable with minimal effect on the environment.
There is also German-based company Langbrett, which uses ash trees to produce its boards. But it focuses on leveraging the offcuts of logs and broken wood for production. Langbrett is also using eco-friendly urethane for its boards’ wheels and glue so each skateboard can be completely recycled.
Finland-based company Uitto (now part of VAI-KO) also has an eco-friendly production approach. It uses Kareline natural fiber composite, which is non-toxic, eco-friendly, and 100% recyclable. Kareline is produced from 50% coniferous pulp and 50% plastics, which are food-grade. The boards resemble wood and can be made into new boards easily by grinding them back to granulates and remolding them.
Skateboarding to save the ocean
According to WWF data, broken and disbanded fishing nets are responsible for nearly 10% of our plastic waste in the ocean. Chile-based Bureo produces skateboard decks from these so-called “ghost nets.” It works closely with fisheries and local communities to provide an incentive program to collect, clean, sort, and recycle fishing nets to repurpose into boards.
Dutch company Wasteboards is helping clean up the environment by making skateboards out of waste bottle caps. The bottle caps are shredded, placed in a mold, and, through a special baking process, molded into one piece to be cut into a skateboard, with each board boasting a unique design. Wasteboards also has a mobile facility where it can “bake” skateboards at music festivals, events, or other any location.
As well as being fun, skateboards offer a lot of potential for people to contribute to environmental protection while they skate.
Creating a sustainable future for our customers and society is also SAP’s focus. For more information, visit SAP Sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).
To learn more on how to drive sustainable supply chain processes, download the IDC report “Leveraging Your Intelligent Digital Supply Chain.”