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Repacking the bike industry

Updated: Aug 16, 2023

circular logistics comes with a circular economy approach to bike shipping


Is there a more sustainable solution to packing bicycles?

This question was answered by Christine Collins and Matthias Höfer who have recently introduced a cradle-to-cradle packaging solution to ship brand-new bikes. In future, bikes will be shipped in their boxes made of 100% recyclable plastic, which can be used many times over. And the highlight is that the one-piece box can be folded up so small that any parcel service can take the empty boxes to their next location.

When the life cycle of a box is over, the two "senior founders" take the box out of the cycle, shred it and make it into a new box.

Cardboard or plastic - which packaging has the better ecological balance?

We are constantly confronted with images of mountains of plastic waste and polluted oceans created by single-use plastics in the media. If you look at the problem a little more closely and include the total CO2 balance of the two different packaging materials in the calculation, a different picture quickly emerges.

Cardboard boxes in shipping are less ecological than reusable plastic alternatives. There are a number of reasons for this. On the one hand, plastic is much more tear-resistant than paper and therefore more durable and resilient. Plastic packaging can be reused umpteen times without tearing or disintegrating in the rain. The production of paper is very energy-intensive, large amounts of water are used and in the end the wood fibre inevitably dissolves into CO2. The great property of wood to serve as a CO2 store is thus destroyed. In addition, chemicals such as caustic soda, sulphites and sulphates are required for the production of tear-resistant cellulose fibres, which lead to negative environmental effects and increased energy consumption during disposal.


Circular economy as a solution

The circular economy is considered the benchmark for a new, sustainable economy. Products are considered over their entire life cycle and beyond, and all stages of the value chain are included. This requires a far-reaching and strategic transformation of the economy - for logistics this means moving away from classic supply chain management towards the management of circular supply chains. [i]

The guiding principle of the circular economy is to keep raw materials largely free of waste and emissions in the economic cycle for as long as possible. For this purpose, discarded products or materials must be kept at the highest possible value-added level after their original use. In order to realize such a circular economy, adapted logistics concepts for coordinating the material and information flows are indispensable - in addition to approaches to recycling-friendly product design and new business models.

In terms of a circular economy, products must therefore be designed for recyclability right from the design stage.


A study by the Fraunhofer Institute on CO2 emissions in the circular economy came to the conclusion that reused packaging is more climate-friendly than disposable packaging. [ii]

This study shows that the disposal/recycling processes of single-use cardboard are the main drivers of CO2 emissions. With a total of 2,875kg CO2, these are 20 times higher than the 0.15kg CO2 emitted during transport.

In the case of reusable packaging, the number of cycles, therefore, has the greatest impact on CO2 emissions. An increase from five to ten trips reduces the CO2 values ​​by around 40 per cent. With 30 cycles, this is reduced by approximately 80 per cent.


Circular Economy and BikeBox PRO

Christine and Matthias are convinced that their solution will become the standard in bicycle shipping in the age of sustainability. With their strategic partnership with XPack – green logistics (www.xpack.com) and their intelligent portal for dispatch management and control, they are able to track the individual boxes and ensure that all boxes remain in circulation until they reach end-of-life. By that time boxes will be taken out and recycled into new ones.

The original BikeBox already won the Eurobike StartUp Award in 2019. The innovative concept convinced the top-class jury mainly because of the disruptive potential for the industry.


The original BikeBox already won the Eurobike StartUp Award in 2019. The innovative concept convinced the top-class jury mainly because of the disruptive potential for the industry.


The BikeBox PRO application is extremely simple:

- Packing the bike in the BikeBox

- Delivery of the packaged bike to the customer

- Unpacking the bike

- Fold the box and attach the return label

- Collection of the box and transport back to the packer

The founders predict more than 40 such cycles on average for each box before it goes into recycling and is introduced back into the cycle as a new box. In the end, this solution will not only beat the cardboard box in terms of the CO2 balance but will also have an advantage on an economic level.


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Literaturnachweis:


[i] Die Grundlagen der Kreislaufwirtschaft. Signals on April 22, 2022. https://www.sig.biz/signals/de/articles/die-grundlagen-der-kreislaufwirtschaft [ii] CIRCULAR ECONOMY LOGISTICS: FÜR EINE KREISLAUFWIRTSCHAFT 4.0. Fraunhofer Institut, 2017. https://www.innovationslabor-logistik.de/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/07_Whitepaper_CE_WEB.pdf

[iii] Fraunhofer study proves: xpacks reduce CO2 emissions by around 80 percent https://www.xpack.net/en/2021/10/19/fraunhofer-study-proves-xpacks-reduce-co2-emissions-by-around-80-percent/


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