Recently in class we’ve talked a lot about a product’s lifecycle and how companies can improve their sustainability from production to the end of a product’s life. Being a huge hockey fan and having worked in a hockey store in the past, I realized how unsustainable hockey companies are – and I got fired up. (here comes the rant)
Technology has improved so much that almost every year brands such as Bauer, Reebok/CCM and Easton release new and improved products that make the previous year’s products look archaic. From a brand perspective this is just great because consumers will always want the latest and greatest gear that is supposed to take them to the “show”. Nowadays, hockey brands are able to command outrageous prices because of their technological advancements – its commonplace to see new skates priced at $1000 and hockey sticks priced over $300. But what is more staggering is that these premium products are not durable enough to withstand the rigorous hockey season, which prompts consumers to keep buying more.
Take a hockey stick for example. People will pay upwards of $300 for an insanely light hockey stick made from a combination of fibre glass, carbon and graphite that offers high performance to the user. But as I mentioned earlier, these sticks are not nearly durable enough and snap like toothpicks. Watch any NHL game and you’ll see at least 3 or 4 sticks break within the 60 minute game. The Los Angeles Kings estimate that they break an average of 1000 sticks a season and they’ve realized how much waste they are creating. To help minimize their impact they’ve recently partnered up with Hat Trick BBQ to repurpose their sticks into grill tools, seen here
Drawing from my experience working in a hockey shop, once these sticks break they are useless and go straight into the trash and then the landfills. Furthermore, its not like the sticks are made with compostable materials – the fibre glass and graphite can be very damaging to the environment. Currently there is nothing being by done by the companies to minimize waste from post-consumer use. We all know that a company’s responsibility doesn’t end with a product’s purchase and something needs to be done.
Even though I don’t have the technical background and scientific knowledge about the composition of hockey sticks I propose a couple solutions:
If hockey sticks can be recycled:
1. Some sort of recycling program where broken sticks can be taken back to retailers and then collected by the manufacturer to be recycled and made into new sticks
2. Consumers can ship broken sticks back to the manufacturer in return for some sort of rebate on their next stick purchase.
If hockey sticks cannot be recycled:
The manufacturers could still collect broken sticks via the above recommendations but repurpose the broken sticks, like Hat Trick BBQ, to make different products such as furniture, household decor, tools, kitchen/grill utensils, and so on… the possibilities are endless.
In fact, many of the products that I just mentioned are already being made, but by smaller mom and pop companies. In my opinion this is a much more viable option for the hockey companies because it creates new revenue streams for them and help divert sticks from the landfills.
Here are some examples of some repurposed hockey sticks:
I’ve looked into the corporate sites of each of the big 3 hockey brands and none of them mention anything about sustainability. Most likely this is because the typical hockey player or fan do not really care about the environment and how their gear impacts it. However, its rapidly becoming a norm for companies to make some effort to reducing their environmental impact, and I expect that sports equipment companies will follow suit.
It’s time for the hockey equipment manufacturers such as Bauer, Reebok/CCM and Easton to look at how unsustainable their operations are and do their part to reduce the waste being sent to the landfills as a result of their products.