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Skistar and Future Eyewear invest in a circular business model with RISE

The winter sports crowd and the guests at ski resorts are increasingly demanding sustainable products and reduced waste of resources. Therefore, the ski helmet brand Bliz and Skistar ― which provide helmets at their mountain tourism facilities ­― asked RISE for help with a transition to a more sustainable and circular business model.

In Sweden, 60,000 ski helmets are sold per year. When worn out, they are recycled as energy but with many residual products that become non-recyclable landfills.

The ski helmet manufacturer Future Eyewear, the parent company of Bliz, has for a long time produced the helmets for Skistar. Accordingly, such a large volume of helmets in circulation - and thus also such a large material flow – would be an opportunity to find a commercially profitable conversion to a circular economy.

RISE already manages several applied research projects in circular business models together with different types of companies. In practice, this means a system change to a higher utilisation rate of the products with extended durability and circulating of materials through reuse, restoration, upgrading or recycling. Nevertheless, the transition to a circular business model is often a challenge. First, one must look at the life cycle analysis and evaluate the environmental effects while finding a new business model which is profitable and practically feasible.

Creating conditions for a circular flow

The Circular Helmet project studies a business model where the supplier Bliz could let the customer Skistar subscribe to the products’ function instead of buying the rental helmets. The idea is to save both costs and the environmental impact by increasing the lifespan of existing products.

“The helmet’s function is not ruined by the cause of a scratch on its´ outer layer. Instead, you can repair and freshen up such a helmet. Therefore, we will develop a technology for the repair and maintenance of the helmets. Furthermore, as Skistar disinfects the helmets after usage, we will investigate bacteria and different disinfection methods, says Jan Jonsson, founder of Future Eyewear.

“Of course, the function and safety of all helmets must be tested continuously. That is why we look at the development of digital technologies such as built-in sensors, non-destructive testing and smart materials. These are aimed to evaluate the helmets’ condition and further optimise the utilisation rate,” says Anders Holmkvist, senior project manager at RISE.

The design of the helmets will also be optimised for circularity regarding materials and ways of dismantling them. In addition, the project will study technical solutions for recycling and manufacturing new helmets with recycled material.

The goal of the Circular Helmet project, which runs for 21 months, is to create the conditions for a circular flow of helmets through new business models, product designs and technologies for optimised utilisation rate and recycling.

“Extended duration, higher utilisation rate and improved recycling will be created by circular business models and adapted design concepts,” Anders Holmkvist explains.

Without RISE, it would have been impossible to run such a complex project

Bio-based shell material

“The idea of investigating the entire chain around ski helmets arose in connection with a previous project, where RISE examined replacing fossil-based materials in our helmets with more sustainable alternatives. The conclusion was that a biobased material could replace the material on the helmet´s outer shell,” says Jan Jonsson.

RISE was testing a large number of materials with a focus on function and durability. The requirement, a helmet hit at a temperature of -25 ̊C, was a critical challenge to solve.

“Several materials and combinations of materials met the requirements at room temperature, but when the tests were run at cold temperatures, few results were approved,” says Anders Homkvist.

The final choice of material was the wood fibre-based biocomposite DuraSense® from Stora Enso. This plastic for injection moulding consists of polypropylene reinforced with wood fibres and is used in kitchen utensils from Gastromax. As polypropylene traditionally does not endure extreme cold, the supplier developed a version of DuraSense® with various additives that can withstand helmet hits in the cold.

“We are currently trying to start producing the helmets for Skistar with this shell material to replace the core material with sustainable material. Furthermore, to reduce the transports, we consider moving the production from Asia to Europe,” says Jan Jonsson.

As the roadmap for fossil-free competitiveness from the ski resort industry prescribes increased circularity of rental equipment, Skistar quickly accepted being a part of the project.

Supports the UN sustainability goals

9. Industry, innovation and infrastructure
12. Responsible consumption and production

Solutions for promoting circular product use

The project results will create conditions for introducing circular flows of ski helmets at both Skistar and Future Eyewear. The overall concept will then be implemented in other products at industry partners and in other industries.

“Experts from several areas in RISE have highlighted aspects that must be resolved to be profitable. Without RISE, it would have been impossible to run such a complex project. This is because there are many different parts in the entire transition, from a profitable business model for circularity to the performance and safety of the helmets,” says Jan Jonsson.

RISE is the project leader, while Future Eyewear is the producer and Skistar is the end customer.

“This project is a clear example of our strength within RISE now that we are one company with many different competencies. In this project, we benefit from diverse expertise; business models for circularity, product design optimised for circularity, function, testing and safety of the helmet, techniques for repair and recycling and above all, a proper evaluation of the environmental effects in each part,” Anders Holmkvist concludes.

CirkHjälm

 – Circular business opportunities for ski helmets

The project consortium consists of Skistar, Future Eyewear and RISE. Skistar has the role of end-user of equipment and excellent knowledge of customers’ needs and product use, Future Eyewear as developer and manufacturer of helmets and finally, the research institute RISE, which conducts research, development and testing in all essential parts of the project.

Project goals

Create conditions for establishing a circular flow of ski helmets. Therefore, the project aims to form knowledge among relevant actors about business models, product design, and technologies for optimised service life and recycling.

Sub-goals

  • A business model for profitable circular flow of ski helmets
  • Product design of ski helmet optimised for circularity and production of prototypes
  • Technology for repair and maintenance tested on existing products
  • Technology for recycling used helmets and manufacturing of new helmets with recycled material
  • Evaluation of the environmental effect of the various sub-goals
Published: 2021-11-12

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