I have decided to upgrade my bike helmet after 6 years and a few accidental drops on the ground. My first thought was to how, and where I might be able to dispose of my old helmet. I dissembled as many parts as I could, and was left with the expanded polystyrene shell coated in plastic. The manufacturer, Giro, suggest I contact my local waste authority, but without being able to separate the parts, recycling is difficult. I am amazed that the design and manufacture of the helmet gives so little thought to its end of life. There must be a better alternative.
I have found a couple of candidates. The first, bright orange pulp helmet designed by Caio Armbrust and exhibited at Nous during London Design Festival, is a cycle helmet made from pulped paper to provide a safety helmet for frequent rental bicycle users such as the urban bicycle scheme in London. The design is similar to thePaper Pulp Helmet by Tom Gottelier, Bobby Petersen and Ed Thomas that was exhibited at the RCA Show 2013. The helmets are made from waste newspapers that circulate the London transport network. A short video demonstrates the manufacturing process as old papers are blended and an organic, food safe additive ensures the helmets are water resistant for up to 6 hours of rain, as no one wants to be covered in old news. The helmet and strap are fully recyclable and can be re-pulped into a new helmet without any degradation of the material. Keep on cycling in every sense, but both of these pulp helmets are for the rental market.
Another RCA alumni, Anirudha Surahbi, designed the Abus Kranium Ecolution Helmet, which is recyclable, but far from throw away. Whereas, polystyrene helmets should be replaced after a single impact, Kranium has also proven to last more than one impact, the same helmet has been tested 5 times consecutively and it still passed the standard. The Kranium also absorbs more than 3 times the amount of impact energy when compared to regular cycling helmets. Its design is inspired by nature, and how woodpeckers are able to absorb repeated impact to their heads. The Kranium is made of dual density honeycomb board, which is made from recycled paper. The whole helmet can be completely dissembled (see the video). It definitely gets a big tick for function!
My next hunt is for a household mop, another everyday product that often ends up in landfill.
Photo credit: Nous and Kranium