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Edelrid Pushes Eco-Friendly Rope Manufacturing to New Heights

By: Seiji Ishii - August 29, 2017

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Edelrid, a pioneer in sustainable and eco-friendly climbing gear, continues to push forward with additions to its rope line; one included upcycled materials, the other excludes PFCs.

These manufacturing advancements will build off the company's existing practices. In 2009, German company Edelrid was the first rope manufacturer to adopt the Bluesign system for all rope manufacturing, creating a process that excludes non-toxic chemicals. The magnitude of decreased environmental impacts of not dyeing sheath yarns was impressive: 62 percent less carbon dioxide, 89 percent less water used, 63 percent less energy consumed and 63 percent fewer chemicals used.

Edelrid's Boa Eco 9.8 upcycled rope, released in 2016, uses sheath yarns leftover from producing other ropes. Upcycling up to 95 percent of the high-quality leftover yarns diverts materials headed to the landfill into ropes that are otherwise identical to the “virgin” counterparts. Materials are leftover when sheath yarns are wound onto braiding spools and then again when braiding of the batch is complete. These normally wasted yarns are collected in a separate process, put on a special spool, and used to produce a splice-free, one-piece sheath for the Boa Eco 9.8 rope. This method dictates shorter batches than standard production, and since planning the leftover yarn colors is impossible, each Boa Eco 9.8 rope has a unique sheath color pattern.

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The rope also receives Edelrid’s Thermo Shield curing treatment, a heat treatment that relaxes the rope’s fibers then shrinks them to improve gliding characteristics of the yarns inside the rope and helps maintain compactness and suppleness for the life of the rope. Boa Eco 9.8 ropes are available in 60-meter and 70-meter lengths (40-meter coming in 2018), are rated as single ropes and have a claimed weight of 62 grams per meter.

Edelrid’s next step in sustainable rope production is the Swift Eco Dry 8.9, which is scheduled for January 2018. Perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) are used in the outdoor industry to repel water, oil, and grease in ropes and garments. These synthetic chemicals are extremely durable, and therein lies the problem; the half-life of PFCs absorbed into the human body is years, and the inherent bioaccumulation burdens human and environmental health. Finding alternatives to PFCs for climbing ropes is complicated due to the difficulty of applying a coating on three-dimensional shapes, around hollow spaces, and on fibers with elongation properties.

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Edelrid’s CO Zero dry coating is a PFC-free dry treatment; it is mated to a rope with a sheath made from leftover yarns to produce the Swift Eco Dry 8.9. The Edelrid Swift Eco Dry 8.9 is the first 100 percent PFC-free dry rope that also meets the UIAA water repellent standard for climbing ropes (less than 5 percent of sample weight absorbed), only absorbing 1-2 percent of its weight in water. Edelrid also applies its Thermo Shield treatment and claims that the Swift Eco Dry 8.9 performs very close to their Pro Dry line of ropes in water repellency, dirt repellency, abrasion resistance and longevity. The rope is rated as a single, double and twin rope, and will be available in 60-, 70- and 80-meter lengths. The rope weighs in at a claimed 52 grams per meter.

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I have been using the Boa Eco 9.8 for the past few months, both in personal climbing and guiding single pitch situations. The rope handles well and has the durability expected of a high-end rope. It got dirty quicker than a dry treated rope but was on par with other untreated ropes. Other than the unique color combinations in the sheath yarns, I nor any of my climbing partners or clients could tell that the rope contained upcycled content. I’m glad Edelrid established the first Bluesign compliant line of ropes and was the first to produce ropes from materials formerly headed to the landfill. The PFC-free CO Zero dry treatment only strengthens their position as a leader in championing the sustainability of rope manufacturing. edelrid.com

About the Author

Seiji Ishii

Seiji Ishii

Seiji Ishii works as a trainer to professional supercross/motocross riders, adventure based motorcycle testing contributor at multiple outlets, and as an AMGA certified rock climbing guide/instructor for White Star Mountain Guides/Austin Rock Gym. His personal time is spent rock climbing, any form of dirt biking, cycling, and training for the next mountaineering adventure.

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