More sustainable jump ropes

Spark Life is a fitness brand in Prestwich, Manchester, offering services from 1-2-1 personal training to small group sessions in person and virtually, alongside more holistic options. As part of their work in the local community, the brand had been purchasing jump ropes to give away, and wanted to find a more sustainable option, having noticed the quantity of plastic used in the ropes, in the beads and handles in particular.

A personal trainer by trade, with no background in plastics, Maggie approached the SMI Hub for help via the Assess strand, interested in understanding if she needed an alternative material for jump ropes or whether the type of plastic used would make a difference to the product’s recyclability.

The SMI Hub used its polymer science and waste industry experience to provide Spark Life with impartial advice and assessment around recycled and recyclable materials that could be used in the manufacture of a jump rope product, as well as exploring potential closed loop solutions for when the product reaches end-of-life.

The team used the laboratory to conduct a variety of experiments to characterise different components (handles, beads, washers, rope) used in commercially available jump ropes to understand what materials are used and simulate how new or used LDPE beads would perform if mechanically recycled several times.

The assessment highlighted that there are many opportunities to lower the environmental impact of the product by using up to 100% recycled content for many of the components and how to simplify the use of multiple types of plastic to enable easier recycling via a take-back scheme at end-of-life.

It can sometimes be difficult understanding the science behind things like this when you’re a complete lay person in the field. Adam and Robbie made it really easy to understand what they had discovered and how this applies to our project to create our own jump ropes.”

Maggie Elliot, Spark Life UK

Next steps

Spark Life are now in contact with a plastics manufacturer with the view to produce their own rope, and with a longer term aim to set up a take back scheme for old ropes to be recycled.

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