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Dalbello and LIFE RESKIBOOT lead the way in eco ski boots

Production of 1,000 pairs of ski boots made from 90 per cent secondary raw materials sets a new benchmark for the circular economy in the industry

Earlier this month, traditional Italian brand Dalbello marked the conclusion of the EU-funded LIFE RESKIBOOT project.

Partners and guests celebrated this milestone in sustainable and resource-saving ski boot production in an exclusive setting at the Masi Wine Bar Col Druscié with a view of the Forcella Rossa, Olimpia and Vertigine Bianca slopes. The overall goal of this LIFE project was to develop, produce and launch 1,000 pairs of high-quality and cost-competitive ski boots using around 90 percent recycled secondary raw materials taken from post-consumer rental ski boots. The target of 1,000 pairs was realized by Dalbello in cooperation with the project partners and the new boots will be returned to the rental shop in February. This sustainable circular approach not only resulted in reducing the ecological footprint of boot production by 56 percent but also ensured that these boots, which should have been discarded, now have a second chance on the slopes. This is a first in the industry, with Dalbello and the project partners setting new standards for the future.

About the LIFE RESKIBOOT project

Since September 2020, Dalbello, together with six partners from different sectors, has been an official participant of the LIFE RESKIBOOT project. The goal of the project, which is co-founded by the European Commission, was to rethink the life cycle of a ski boot in terms of sustainability and resource conservation and at the same time reduce the costs per boot by seven percent. Whilst focusing on rental companies, the aim was to develop a take-back and re-use system that would provide an alternative to nine million kilograms of plastic waste from post-consumer ski boots sent to landfills every year.

The challenge

Each ski boot consists of more than 100 plastic parts, thermoplastic and foamed materials, and adhesives. Previous attempts by other manufacturers have failed due to the cost of dismantling and separating materials as well as the lack of a solution for sorting and recycling the liners, which consist of foam sandwiches. In cooperation with the partner network, Dalbello has managed to optimize these complex processes and to develop a business model based on a closed-loop system that gives discarded ski boots a second life. “The attempt to effectively utilize the hard recycled multi-plastics posed a major challenge for our team at Dalbello. The inherent complexity of the material, characterized by limited knowledge of its composition and age, required a methodical approach of trial and error. Through this process, we were able to achieve the desired quality of the boot shell and transform it into a high-quality component,” says Stefano Prosdocimo, R&D Department and LIFE RESKIBOOT Project Manager at Dalbello.

Circular economy at its best

Crucial to this process was the cooperation within the network and the pooling of know-how from the individual project partners from different sectors. Each of the seven companies contributes to the overall concept with its own innovations. The rental partner Rent a Sport was identified as the perfect partner for collecting the post-consumer boots. These end-of-life boots were broken down into their components – grinded plastics, foams and soft materials – and prepared for reprocessing by Plastic Sort S.R.L.. These secondary raw materials obtained from recycling are the decisive piece of the puzzle and stand in contrast to the 9.4 million kilograms of virgin raw materials that are processed every year – emitting 33,800 tons of CO2 equivalent – in the conventional production of ski boots. The insights into design for recycling were provided by studies carried out at the University of Bologna and founded the basis for the further production process. In the Dalbello factory, the hard plastic parts were finely ground and fed back into the production cycle for the boot shell by drastically reducing the use of virgin raw materials. In addition, the sorted soft parts of the liners were grinded, recompacted into blocks and processed into recycled liners at GRIFONE S.R.L.. As further crucial partners EPSI[2] and Studio Fieschi supported the project in terms of a systematic and comprehensive evaluation of the environmental impacts associated with the product throughout its entire life cycle and the dissemination of project findings and valuable insights to a broader audience.  At the end of the cycle is again the rental partner, who brings the first 1,000 pairs back into circulation and onto the slopes.

A concept that sets a precedent

The project involved conducting an environmental impact assessment of the final product, employing the ISO 14000 series process known as Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). This examination dissects each phase of production, use, and disposal to accurately quantify the product’s overall environmental footprint throughout its lifecycle. Output metrics span across 16 categories, including Global Warming Potential (GWP), measured in kilograms of CO2 equivalent emissions. The production of 1,000 ski boots during the project period resulted in a significant 56 percent reduction in the carbon footprint, achieved by utilizing secondary raw materials instead of virgin ones. This reduction underlines the importance of using secondary raw materials, particularly in reducing emissions from extraction and processing, given the high proportion of polymer materials that make up more than 60 percent of the total weight of a ski boot, including key components such as the shell, cuff and treads. With LIFE RESKIBOOT, Dalbello and the partner companies have managed to save 3,268 kilograms of waste and twelve tons of CO2 equivalent. Also, the target of reducing the cost of a ski boot by seven percent was achieved. Finally, the inclusion of an Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) with the final LIFE RESKIBOOT product sets new sustainability benchmarks in the wintersport hardgoods industry, facilitating comparative assessments of sustainability performance among various products.

“What may seem rather unremarkable at first glance is actually a big step towards more sustainable production,” says Giuseppe Bianchini, Brand Business Director at Dalbello. “Together with our LIFE RESKIBOOT project partners, we have not only succeeded in giving almost 100 percent of a ski boot a new life cycle, but also in developing an innovative, experimental model of a circular economy that can serve as a guideline and basis for the entire industry and beyond. We are proud to play a pioneering role here with all the companies involved and look forward to the projects that follow.”

After the initial project completion, there is an ongoing effort to evolve the initiative in a refined manner. The processes developed within the project will be applied by Dalbello in an increasing number of models, but the aim is to share this success with the whole industry. The focus is on extending collaborative efforts with new project partners to amplify the positive environmental impact. Specifically, the aim is to advance the commercialization of recycled ski boots, leading to a more substantial reduction in resource consumption, waste production, and greenhouse gas emissions.

For more details on the project, visit the website: www.lifereskiboot.eu

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