21st June 2016

Recycling inner tubes, one purse at a time: Guest Blog by Velo Culture

Velo Culture - Photograph by Chris Auld Photography

Bev of Velo Culture upcycles inner tubes with a trusty sewing machine. Photo by Chris Auld Photography

At the Bike Co-op we believe in recycling – so much so, that we currently recycle over 95% of the paper, cardboard and plastic that we generate.

However, there is one bi-product of bicycles that’s notoriously difficult to recycle, and that is inner tubes. That’s why we were pleased to hear from Bev of Velo Culture, who was looking for old inner tubes to make her brilliant purses and wash bags. Here she talks about inner tubes, her love of cycling, and the all important cake stop.

Velo Culture - Photograph by Chris Auld Photography

Written by Bev Blakeman of Velo Culture, all photographs by Chris Auld Photography

“Velo Culture is in it’s third year now and came about after a surprise redundancy meant I had a lot of spare time on my hands along with a passion to become self employed! As well as being a big cycling fan I’ve always been creative, so out of this as well as a desire to do something with the pile of punctured inner tubes in the garage, the seeds of Velo Culture were planted.

Although cycling is an environmentally friendly activity, the punctured tubes it produces are very hard to recycle and tend to end up in landfill. With cycling now booming in the UK, that’s a lot of landfill!

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velo culture rubber dub dub wash bag

The Rubber Dub Dub, one of many creative inner-tube-recycling solutions by Velo Culture

The Cake Stop Caddy was my first inner tube product and was designed to give cyclists somewhere to store money, cards and keys when out for a ride, and to put change in after a mid-ride coffee and cake. They also take up such little space they’re great to shove in your bag or pocket when you don’t want a bulky purse. Two years down the line and they’re still a bestseller.Whilst not being the easiest material to stitch, inner tubes are actually a very versatile material to use; Hard wearing, durable and a great alternative to leather. Every tube is different and each has its own little piece of history, therefore no two items made are the same. With a little bit of creativity the range has now grown to include The Soft Cell phone case, Penny Pincher purse, Rubber Dub Dub wash bags and The Less Waist tube belt, amongst others.

I’ve added custom coloured stitching to products and made bespoke satchels, totes and laptop cases. Products have been posted from the UK to USA and France to Finland and I love that people are wearing and using something I’ve made from an upcycled part which has once been part of the sport that they love.

As popularity has grown, I’ve gained an extra pair of hands in the form of a part time seamstress and also expanded where tubes come from. Friends were no longer getting enough punctures to keep up with demands! In 2016 so far we’ve scrubbed, cut and prepped just short of 1000 tubes into products. Our sources have grown from local bike stores and bike tube drop stations to individuals posting us parcels, as well as the Bristol Bike Project and the Welsh OPA Llandegla.

I’m delighted that Edinburgh Bike Coop have now come on board too after seeing a tweet requesting punctured tubes. Parcels from their Edinburgh base are going to be a big help in allowing Velo Culture to grow whilst also decreasing landfill one punctured tube at a time :)”

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13 comments on “Recycling inner tubes, one purse at a time: Guest Blog by Velo Culture

  1. John on

    Would you believe I just took a bag of tubes to the tip to be told they don’t recycle the rubber. Said bag had been getting topped up for the past 8 years 🙁
    Shame I didn’t see this article a few weeks ago.

    Reply
  2. maja on

    I’ m from Croatia and started to be creative with the same material (I do some necklaces and big bags…) – for now just for me and friends… but still the hardest part is to prepare tube – cleaning and oiling to get rid of powder inside the tube. Would it be possible for you to recommend how you clean it (I tried everything – soap, alcohol,oil, glicerin…and all that at once)… I eventually succeed to get a proper thing but it seems that not every thing works all the time, and it takes me triple time to prepare it than to finish it…thanks in advance

    Reply
    • Web Master on

      Hi Maja, Bev says: “No secrets, just eco cleaner and lots of elbow grease with a hard bristle scrubbing brush once they’re cut open.” Good luck!

      Reply
    • Geoff on

      I’m looking for some at the moment for a project – will happily take them off your hands if they’re in Edinburgh today?

      Reply
  3. Albert on

    I have a very large quantity Inner tubes, predominantly being Bicycle. Any ideas on who may want this quantity? or possibly a number of people wanting smaller amounts?
    Thanks.

    Reply
  4. John Durrant on

    Hello
    I have about 20 inner tubes I don’t want. Can I send them to you to recycle?
    Do you take bike tyres too?
    Is postage free?
    Thanks
    John

    Reply

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