Environment

Recycle Utah champions ski and snowboard recycling program

"There are some great skis here if you're looking to try something new (to you) or expand your quiver," said Carolyn Wawra

PARK CITY, Utah — In an effort to address the environmental challenges posed by the disposal of ski and snowboard equipment, Recycle Utah has revamped its approach to managing old winter sports gear, pivoting from traditional recycling methods to a more sustainable reuse program.

Launched in 2016 in partnership with the Snowsports Industry of America (SIA), the initiative initially focused on recycling skis but has evolved significantly due to changes in the recycling market and the inherent complexities of processing mixed-material equipment.

Skis and snowboards are notoriously difficult to recycle due to their composition: a mix of steel, aluminum, plastic, wood, and fiberglass. The breakdown of materials in a typical ski, for example, is approximately 5 percent steel, 25 percent aluminum, 60 percent plastic, and 10 percent wood and fiberglass. Around five years ago, SIA discontinued the program due to market shifts rendering the recycling process unviable, leading Recycle Utah to shift its focus toward a reuse-centric model.

Carolyn Wawra, executive director of Recycle Utah, highlighted the adaptability of the program, “Given the lack of recycling options, we’ve converted this program to a reuse program.” The organization now welcomes a variety of ski types — alpine, nordic, adult, children’s and even snowblades — alongside snowboards and poles. These items are available for purchase directly from the bins at the Recycling Center, priced at $10 for skis or a snowboard and $2 for a pair of poles, all sold as-is without any guarantee of condition.

In addition to individual sales, Recycle Utah offers bulk purchases for creative projects, such as constructing ski fences. The partnership with Ski Trucks, a Salt Lake-based company known for its buyback, trade and used gear program, further extends the life of these winter sports items. Ski Trucks also crafts furniture and other items from old skis.

A notable development this season is the collaboration with Jones Snowboards on what is dubbed as “the world’s first snowboard recycling program.” This groundbreaking initiative, named the Re-Up process, promises to reuse about 95% of materials from almost any snowboard, transforming them into new products, according to their website. This process not only showcases a significant leap towards sustainability in the snow sports industry but also reinforces the shared commitment of Recycle Utah and its partners to environmental stewardship.

Wawra herself is a testament to the quality and appeal of the reused equipment, rotating between two sets of skis from the bins at Recycle Utah. “There are some great skis here if you’re looking to try something new (to you) or expand your quiver,” she says, encouraging Parkites to explore their options.

Ski fence using recycled skis
A ski fence made using recycled skis. Photo: Carolyn Wawra

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