Q&A.; Biodegradable or Eco Bike Helmets?
Q. I was wondering if there are any new ideas in helmet design? Possibly any that biodegrade just like the wheat based biodegradable cutlery on the other page. What about creating a biodegradable styrafoam? And I mean I want to be able to compost that thing once I've taken a nasty spill (ass-over-teakettle) and survived thanks to my trustry, but now broken biodegradable wheat-based helmet. If not we should be looking into this! So asked Jeremy Y. amidst the heated comment session that ensured when we flippantly proposed helmets for motorists.A. What an eminently sensible enquiry Jeremy. The instructions say 'do not use the helmet again after being involved in an accident'. No such helmets yet on the market, well, that caught our eye anyhow. But we found umpteen sources of foam that were supposed to biodegrade, though strangely very few that delivered much more than the promise. Most are starch based, mostly derived from corn/maize, and were claiming to provide all the benefits currently found in the existing expanded polystryrene (EPS) foam of helmets today. For example, at one one point there was movement from the Caledonian Group in Scotland, (who, as an aside, had a Operations Director by the name of Jim McSporran - we kid you not!). They licenced technology from the Italian outfit Novamont to use their MaterBi Wave foam. (Remember the pens we told you about? They were of a similar base material). Now given that they could get this stuff to "dissolve in water in around 20 minutes" that might not bode well for pedaling about in the rain (especially in Scotland).
Apparently these types of foams perform well in packaging, although there does seem to be little real world use of even this application. Maybe they have some extra hoops to jump through before they are appropriately impact resistant enough for helmet use. Or possibly coping with perspiring noggins is a challenge for the foam too. Though researchers at Brunel Uni of London were saying, years back, these biodegradable foams were as good as EPS andPrecision Foam Fabrication of Ohio in the US apparently sell their proprietary starch version too. But to the best of our knowledge no-one is making helmets out of the stuff. (Anyone out there heard different? Please let us know.) It would seem reasonable that the same technology could produce the top microshell to shield the foam as well.
So until you, as an entrepreneur, seize this glaringly obvious opportunity to fill a market void, Jeremy, we can do no more.
Oh wait, we can report on company that although not making compostable helmets does state that "everything has been made in order to avoid any damaging impact on the environment." MET boast of the "most advanced sport helmet production plant in the world." Thus, the steam used to expand their EPS is recycled back heating their buildings, Waste from trimming the microshell is ground into powder to be feed back into new plastic. The helmets (pictured above) are only made in Italy, with no production in countries where workers rights might be fragile. Plus a fund has been established for the company to donate to humanitarian intitiatives each year. ::MET Helmets.