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Right on cue for Earth Day, Rossignol unveiled its most recyclable ski to date: The Essential, a versatile carving ski made with the fewest—and the most amount of fully recyclable—materials possible.
The 69mm-waisted Essential ski is made primarily out of aluminum (35 percent), wood (35 percent), and steel (7 percent), and 62 percent of the raw materials used are either recycled or certified “natural and bio-sourced.” The ski also features a simple topsheet which uses no solvents or water, and was produced in Rossignol’s factory in Sallanche, France, which uses renewable energy.
“Improving end-of-life management for a product means better design right from the start,” says David Bouvier, senior marketing director for Rossignol’s mountain sports group. “In comparison with a conventional ski with a current average recyclability rate of just 10 percent, we’re excited to announce that over 75 percent of the Essential ski can be recycled. By 2028, our aim is to have one-third of our ski collection developed through this same approach and ethos.”
It’s not perfect—the Essential still incorporates 12 percent plastic and 5 percent fine wood, which are not sustainable materials— but according to Nick Castagnoli, Rossignol’s brand marketing director for North America, it’s exciting progress.
“Some want to throw darts and accuse organizations of greenwashing when they try anything like this, but unfortunately, there’s no magic switch here,” says Castagnoli. “We have to be focused on making progress over perfection. This is a step in the right direction. It’s not necessarily something you can do overnight. You have to have proof of concept. Now we know that we can do it.”
According to Rossignol, the Essential is not just a recyclable ski or a novelty item, but a true performance ski worthy of the 115-year-old brand name and reputation. “We had to be sure that we were contributing to a more circular, eco-conscious economy and also building an all-mountain ski that performs,” says Castagnoli. The narrow-waisted shape uses fewer materials, but it also lends itself to a balanced, carvy, on-piste ski.
For Rossignol, the Essential is a big leap forward for the brand in terms of sustainability, but also just the beginning.
Celebrating its 115-year anniversary in 2022, Rossignol is touting its commitment to more sustainable product development, eco-conscious design, product life-cycle, and recycling solutions. It began this effort in 2020 by formally launching its RESPECT program: a wide-reaching Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiative with targets to reduce the company’s carbon footprint by 30 percent by 2030, and its industrial waste by 40 percent by 2025.
Rossignol’s owned factories are already powered on renewable energy, and all of the group’s manufacturing facilities will be operating on renewable energy by January 2023. But producing things with renewable energy matters little if the things you are producing are still harmful to the environment.
So the company plans to carry its strategy of simplicity and recyclability across its other product collections currently in development, including ski boots, technical equipment, and apparel. It will also heavily lean into recycling. To address the recycling challenges of winter sports equipment, which are often made with toxic and/or difficult to recycle materials, Rossignol Group entered a partnership with MTB, a leading player in recycling and related manufacturing processes. MTB recently developed a new water-free process for improved recycling of conventional modern ski constructions, including grinding without the use of water and improved sorting and separating technology.
These improvements within the recycling process were developed alongside the Essential ski to maximize the goal of “contributing to a circular economy and product life cycle,” according to Rossignol. Recycled materials can then be repurposed across automotive, garden, or construction industries, and in the future, within new Rossignol Group products. MTB also says it is launching Recycling Box in 2023: an innovative new tool enabling improved recycling of modern conventional ski, boot, and pole constructions.
“In the realm of ski hardgoods, this is not an easy task,” says Castagnoli. These are not traditionally easy materials to recycle and reuse. It requires almost a completely new business model and design processes from the start. And when the ski reaches end of life, it’s not that simple. It’s how, what, who. And also, what incentivizes a customer to turn that ski in? It’s a bit of a new frontier on a lot of different levels.”
For skiers, the answer to the incentive question should be pretty obvious.
“As mountain people, we live and breathe this stuff every day,” Castagnoli says. “From both a personal and business standpoint, we’re really on the front lines of seeing the impacts of climate change. Trying to move the needle in the right direction is a substantial task, and this is another step we’re making in that direction.”
This story was first published by SKI.