Starling claims carbon produces 16 times more CO2 than steel

by 38

A report from Starling is the result of a deep dive into how it runs as a business and how it can operate more sustainably.

It’s worth reading the full report (link to PDF) as it does detail that aspects that shipping things by air freight is possibly the main thing to avoid, regardless of what the item is made from.

Press Release:

Starling Cycles Published Environmental Footprint and Assessment Policy

It includes some particularly interesting findings with regards to steel versus carbon frame manufacturing.

Starling Cycles, the UK-based manufacturer of single-pivot, steel full suspension frames, has just published its first Environmental Footprint Assessment and Policy, which includes a comparison between steel and carbon frames.

The new Assessment and Policy (click to view PDF) is the result of an audit into how Starling operates and the impact that it has on the environment.

Brand owner Joe McEwan looked at both ‘upstream’ and ‘downstream’ aspects of Starling’s business. This includes the manufacturing process in their Bristol-based workshop and any work that is outsourced eg. powder coating. He assessed the impacts of moving products in and out of Starling and the lifecycle of his frames, through to the end of their useable life with consideration for repair and recycling if required.

McEwan said: “A small number of brands are taking environmental impact seriously right now, but many just don’t seem to acknowledge it. Our products encourage people to spend time in nature; to ignore our impact on the environment just doesn’t sit right. This process is the first step in helping us understand how sustainably we operate as a business and what we need to do to improve”.

Starling’s evaluation also extends to its suppliers, assessing their impact on the brand’s environmental footprint. Reynolds Tubing, the brand’s tubing supplier, took inspiration from the process and followed Starling’s model to undertake their own assessment. This created one of the highlight good news stories of the process, finding that all of Reynold’s steel comes from recycled raw materials. Reynolds will publish its own survey in the near future.

Starling also worked with the National Composites Centre to undertake a broad comparison of steel vs carbon frame manufacturing. The study found that production of carbon fibre bicycle frames emits 16X more CO2 than steel bicycle frames. McEwan said: “If you bring together the lower emissions of manufacturing alongside the increased toughness, longevity and repairability of steel it makes for a really compelling case for steel bikes. If you care about the environmental impact of your frame, it seems like it’s hard to argue with steel”.

Starling’s Environmental Footprint Assessment and Policy is, by the brand’s own admission, just a first step in a larger process. A significant finding of the assessment is that Starling should reduce its reliance on air-freighting products, both in and out of the business. Starling will now invest effort into working out how to answer that challenge, most likely increasing work with overseas distributors and dealers and moving to land or sea freight as an alternative.

McEwan concludes by saying “We’ve learned a lot from this process but in many cases, the answers aren’t straightforward. We’ve identified areas for improvement and now we need to find out how to make those changes”.

starlingcycles.com

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Viewing 38 posts - 1 through 38 (of 38 total)
  • Starling claims carbon produces 16 times more CO2 than steel
  • joshvegas
    Free Member

    I fully approve of any company taking an interest and at least trying to improve. But there is some questionable statements in that.

    Its a stretch to claim bottled gas is only a concern at the local and operator scale, ITs extracted from a non renewable source, its processed and its transported

    Since when has carbon not been repairable or tough? It’s cool with me to have a steel bike (all i own) I’d love a starling, I’m on board with steel over carbon fibre for a number of reasons mincluding the lack of recycling (and even then I haven’t read up on whats possible against what is practical against what is affordable).

    So why make statements that only lessen your argument by being untrue?

    Ultimately and this isn’t a dig at Starling its prevalent throughout so many industies.
    Teh carbon foot print full stop is a problem when we consider luxury items. Much talk of longevity of steel but its being used in a bike that has a life of how long until its obsolete? How many starlings will be ridden from the door? How many starlings will be ridden by people with other bikes that are a bit older but still functional?

    I would still love a starling though.

    joshvegas
    Free Member

    Ooooofty ranty much?

    footflaps
    Full Member

    So why make statements that only lessen your argument by being untrue?

    Probably because they decided the conclusion before putting the argument together….

    Same as any other infomercial article.

    scotroutes
    Full Member

    Hey, it’s cheaper than journalism!

    matt_outandabout
    Full Member

    Much talk of longevity of steel but its being used in a bike that has a life of how long until its obsolete?

    Feel free to pass on your ‘obsolete’ bikes this way and I can ensure they are used until they genuinely do need to be recycled.

    jameso
    Full Member

    Fair dues to Starling for having done the work on this in the first place.

    Much talk of longevity of steel but its being used in a bike that has a life of how long until its obsolete? How many starlings will be ridden from the door? How many starlings will be ridden by people with other bikes that are a bit older but still functional?

    None of that undermines the point that a steel frame or fork, all interfaces and standards being equal, should have a number of times lower CO2 cost than the carbon version. The bike brand isn’t responsible for the rider’s rate of consumption or need to drive to ride. They’re responsible for the product they make and the people they work with and employ, that’s about it, and a brand making frames in the UK from Reynolds tubes has a lower impact than a brand making carbon equivalents and shipping them in from Asia.

    jameso
    Full Member

    .

    Aidy
    Free Member

    That doesn’t seem like a good reason to choose steel, just a good reason to choose not-carbon.

    What about alu? mg? bamboo? wood?

    TheGingerOne
    Full Member

    Difficult to recycle old bamboo or wood into a bike frame and then reuse it again for something else after it has been a bike frame. Same for carbon.

    cheddarchallenged
    Full Member

    Carbon Fibre made in some parts of Europe can have less than 1% of the emissions footprint of Carbon made in Asia:

    https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/carbon-fiber-production-almost-zero-co2-emissions-hans-hansson

    Do we known how UK recycled steel tubing e.g. that sourced by Starling, stacks up against the lowest CO2 forms of Carbon Fibre?

    Likewise, has Starling factored in the CO2 footprint of the industrial gasses they use to weld their frames?

    Having said that, fair play to Starling for looking at the impact of their operations – it’s something that all companies should be doing.

    Mine’s a Murmur Trail.

    Rubber_Buccaneer
    Full Member

    A report from Starling is the result of a deep dive

    joshvegas
    Free Member

    The bike brand isn’t responsible for the rider’s rate of consumption or need to drive to ride.

    no but the industry (as i quite clearly pointed out) does. It sells new standards as neccesary and it removes support for old.

    I’ll take your point though you are absolutely right.

    They’re responsible for the product they make and the people they work with and employ, that’s about it, and a brand making frames in the UK from Reynolds tubes has a lower impact than a brand making carbon equivalents and shipping them in from Asia.

    and they are also responsible as everyone is for not lying. and there are lies intentional or through lack of effort in that pamphlet.

    I’m not singling starling out but they could easily make a valid point without cheapening it.

    footflaps
    Full Member

    Having said that, fair play to Starling for looking at the impact of their operations – it’s something that all companies should be doing.

    Or is it just marketing blurb and they don’t actually GAF?

    TheGingerOne
    Full Member

    Footflaps, do you really think they would go to that level purely for marketing BS? They are not some big moneyed corporation with oodles of marketing budget to splash on this type of thing!

    5plusn8
    Free Member

    Metals are one of the few things that can easily be recycled. Carbon composite is very hard to recycle.

    chakaping
    Free Member

    Hey, it’s cheaper than journalism!

    I can assure you that a report like this definitely isn’t cheaper than journalism, if that’s what you meant.

    How many starlings will be ridden by people with other bikes that are a bit older but still functional?

    Yep.

    I ride a Starling, it’s my newest bike but was secondhand. The eco-imapct was the last thing on my mind when choosing it, but it’s nice that it’s repairable and the geometry is future proof to a certain extent.

    I really can’t imagine Joe doing this as a “greenwashing” exercise, but I can imagine him thinking it might play out in his favour.

    What about alu? mg? bamboo? wood?

    But Starling only make steel bikes.

    jameso
    Full Member

    no but the industry (as i quite clearly pointed out) does. It sells new standards as neccesary and it removes support for old.

    The industry in general does, planned obsolescence for competitive advantage – and some large bike brands have as much responsibility for that as the component brands. Small brands either get pulled along or are pretty good at resisting or being largely independent of it all.

    there are lies intentional or through lack of effort in that pamphlet.

    There’s generalisations on carbon… I read between the lines as ‘smash the downtube of a carbon frame properly and it’s over but you can fold a steel down tube and replace it’. Joe at Starling knows more about carbon than most, I’m sure he could explain it all quite well.

    Olly
    Free Member

    High on my current “requirements list”, along with Big wheels, tall sizes, is “Metal”.

    From what ive seen of Carbon production (youtube, pictures and articles in STW and PB type places, etc) i dont think its worth it.

    joshvegas
    Free Member

    I really can’t imagine Joe doing this as a “greenwashing” exercise, but I can imagine him thinking it might play out in his favour.

    I don’t either, its certainly not what I a trying to imply. What i am trying to say is it kinda comes acrosss that way because of the content.

    It makes me sad. I literally spend my days (when not on here obvs) trying to address the issues of climate change. The most important thing anyone can do is be honest and be a bit diligent.

    “we recognise that our bikes are luxury items, you don’t need them, we’d love you to buy one and to make sure thats the most environmentally sound proposition this is why we have chosen to use steel *insert steel pros and cons* and here is our current carbon footprint and what we think we can improve”

    There’s generalisations on carbon… I read between the lines as ‘smash the downtube of a carbon frame properly and it’s over but you can fold a steel down tube and replace it’.

    Whereas I read it as JRA along and a stone jumps up and bites you downtube in the bum your carbon frame is **** and steel is fine and even if it isn’t its repairable. whereas in reality the steel is probably got a dent in it (and still totally ridable) and the carbon might have lost a wee bit of clearcoat and if its worse than that you can repair it yourself.

    Daffy
    Full Member

    So – Starling are only using 8kWh of power (or equivalent) per day, whilst welding frames, heating buildings, using computers, boiling kettles, etc? Really?

    Also, does it matter so much? A bike ridden 200 miles in its life will offset the emissions used in its creation if used in place of a car doing the same distance…200 miles – that’s all!

    K
    Full Member

    Maybe they are using bottled gas to heat the building in winter so not counting that?

    Daffy
    Full Member

    I meant to say a carbon bike – the steel one is far less, but even so.

    My carbon bike(s) have all been ridden for more than 200 miles of commuting, so I feel no guilt.

    chrismac
    Full Member

    More pointless green washing nonsense. Mountain bikes are luxury items we love to enjoy. Companies spend fortune to persuade us to buy more of these luxuries we don’t need and then try to persuade us that ask this unnecessary consumption is not as bad for the environment as you think. This isn’t a dog at starling it’s no different to all luxury goods manufacturers the world over

    footflaps
    Full Member

    Footflaps, do you really think they would go to that level purely for marketing BS? They are not some big moneyed corporation with oodles of marketing budget to splash on this type of thing!

    It’s an infomercial full of flawed assumption which amazingly comes out in favour of the only material they are able to manufacture….

    So, yes I think it is 99% marketing BS with maybe 1% good intention accidentally in the mix.

    Look at it this way, if their ‘research’ came to the conclusion that carbon used less CO2 than steel, do you think he’d immediately shut the business down or switch to 100% carbon frames? No, me neither…..

    breatheeasy
    Free Member

    Also, does it matter so much? A bike ridden 200 miles in its life will offset the emissions used in its creation if used in place of a car doing the same distance…200 miles – that’s all!

    But when you’re racking up miles in your smoky diesel driving to bike parks with the bike on the back causing more drag is that a win? (Sorry, thats another rabbithole to disappear down with regard bikes climate credentials).

    I’m guessing more steel (and possibly alu) are used for commuting that carbon given the population breakdown. STW is an outlier in terms of using carbon bikes to commute. Though I am glad the offset of a bike is so small as they does make me feel so much better after many many years of commuting by bikes.

    footflaps
    Full Member

    STW is an outlier in terms of using carbon bikes to commute.

    My commuter is my only non carbon bike – a tatty old Il Pompino…

    cookeaa
    Full Member

    “Report” is a bit strong, they’ve just clicked print to pdf on an 11 page PowerPoint (which is mostly pictures)…

    Fair dues to Starling for having done the work on this in the first place.

    Have they? They mainly cite a non-peer reviewed study for their comparison to carbon section, and their carbon auditing of suppliers seems to just cover the mode of transport the respective products take to reach them, where’s the section covering the emissions for the mill that produces their tubing, or the mine that pulled the ore out of the ground?

    Also why is there only a comparison made with Carbon? Where is the Aluminium comparison? Starling do Ti frames occasionally too don’t they? Where’s the environmental impact assessment of those?

    Obviously the conclusion was reached before the “Report” was even drafted, and I don’t actually doubt steel is on balance a less environmentally damaging material overall (the global infrastructure to produce the stuff is far better established and efficient than just about any other engineering material, having had a 100 year head start), but this is not any sort of environmental impact audit/report it’s fluffy propaganda to prop up the ‘steel is real’ fanbois. Let’s hope more effort goes into the 2023 issue…

    robertajobb
    Full Member

    Amd when that smoking dirty diesel is a transit van carting an £8k ebike to a trail centre 250 miles away, and that ebike most surely has never been ridden to work, the net impact is EVEN WORSE.
    BUT the bike industry (inc. STW in that) doesn’t want to acknowledge it, never mind actually tackle it.

    mick_r
    Full Member

    I’ve reused various steel frame parts in new bikes (BB shells etc). Brazed bits are very easy to reuse (better than welded bits) but maybe not as good for recycling (the copper and zinc from the brazing alloy is going to end up in the melt).

    Similarly entire parts of frames get reused if I can’t be arsed making a whole one – eg my commuter is the rear triangle off the 29er I made in 2012.

    All of this is inconsequential in the big scheme of things but it makes me happy 😀

    Amd when that smoking dirty diesel is a transit van carting an £8k ebike to a trail centre 250 miles away, and that ebike most surely has never been ridden to work, the net impact is EVEN WORSE.

    “We want diversity & inclusivity in MTB, but if you’re poor or live somewhere away from trails, get a new hobby, you’re not welcome unless you ride steel and drive an e-motor”.

    thols2
    Free Member

    A bike frame weighs a couple of kilos. The CO2 production from making one will be in the order of magnitude of burning one tank of gas in a car. It doesn’t matter what your bike is made of, its lifetime carbon footprint is a tiny fraction of a car’s.

    tjagain
    Full Member

    More pointless green washing nonsense. Mountain bikes are luxury items we love to enjoy.

    Speak for yourself

    Mine is a low carbon form of transport and its carbon footprint was a consideration when buying it as is its longevity hence steel and all components fully repairable

    Yes a pair of shoes would have a lower carbon footprint but as ameans of transport its pretty low carbon

    FunkyDunc
    Free Member

    I watched a vid the other day about the boss of Commencal. They do t make bikes out if carbon allegedly because of the carbon footprint

    None of the biking industry is at all eco orientated.

    None of the biking industry is at all eco orientated.

    Same could probably said for most manufacturers/industries of luxury goods.

    Much like luxury beliefs, somebody else pays a heavier price.

    scotroutes
    Full Member

    Yes a pair of shoes would have a lower carbon footprint but as ameans of transport its pretty low carbon

    But you already had a bike so the point you are replying to still stands.

    Speeder
    Full Member

    My Starling Swoop is 6 years old. I bought it as a bike for life and changing standards aside (**** boost!), it’s so far living up to that. It’s had the TT replaced by the factory following a bout of user error that would have rendered a carbon or alloy frame as scrap.

    I’m happy that I’ve supported a small business and that it’s as environmentally responsible as any bike I could have bought could be. What I do with it in terms of usage has no baring on it’s credentials as I’d do that whatever it was made from. At least I don’t feel guilty that t was made in a factory 1/2 way around the world and shipped in along with a load of fresh air in a large bike box. It was made 50 miles away by a bloke in a shed.

    There’s no doubt that publishing this is PR but it does show that they’re thinking about these things and if it helps them shift people’s perceptions and consider more than just the usual mtb industry norms of new colour/new model/geometry/reviews/race results then I think that’s great.

    ayjaydoubleyou
    Full Member

    A bike ridden 200 miles in its life will offset the emissions used in its creation if used in place of a car doing the same distance…200 miles – that’s all!

    The miles my “best mtb” (which has changed over the years) has done in its life directly replacing a car journey I would have made I can count on my fingers. If we add nipping round to a local friend/pub and I’ve taken it in preferrence to walking then I may need to remove my socks.

    An empty beer can is 15g of aluminium (alloy of some sort).
    Ride twice a week for 3 years (is that an average use for a keen mtber?)
    and enjoy a single refreshing can of beer afterwards (again can we call this fairly typical?),
    and you have thrown away (hopefully to recycling) more aluminium in can form than your frame is made of.
    To say nothing of how that ~180kg of beer was transported to you.

    alanclarke
    Full Member

    What jumps out to me at first is that these CO2 figures are so low it really doesn’t matter – ride what you like! 50 kg CO2 is simply insignificant for a UK resident – look at your diet, travel or energy use before worrying about this.

    Though not that surprising really – a carbon frame may weigh 1.5 kg, steel 3.5 kg – and a car? say 1500 kg? And its lifetime, say at least 25000 kgCO2 exhaust emissions??

    Also…surprised at how low the steel CO2 figure is – steel is pretty high carbon to make – though the industry likes to use whole life figures, ie including recycling, rather than upfront carbon emissions – though maybe German bike tubes have high recycled content?

    No longer feel guilty about my carbon frame now I’ve seen this!!

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