Words: Elliott Wright. Photos: Elliott Wright and/or Jason Madison
At a time when conversations around carbon footprints arise every day, I have often reflected on my own impact on the environment.
I’ve wondered how many felled trees were cut into the countless skateboards I have ridden over twenty-plus years. Multiply that by skaters worldwide and you’ve got a staggering amount of virgin maple. So, naturally, I was intrigued when I heard about Marcelo Gagliardi crafting skateboards with recycled materials. As an experienced surfboard laminator at Ryan Harris’ Earth Technologies, Gagliardi developed an idea with his business partner, Justin Dechant, to repurpose the waste lying around the shaping bay. After conducting this interview over the phone, he invited me down to Torrance, California, where I got to see the birthplace of his new venture, Shred Skateboard Co.
What was the motivation behind starting Shred?
Earth Technologies is fully dedicated to building the most sustainable surfboards possible. I saw Ryan’s approach to sustainability in terms of his line of work. There are a bunch of byproducts of the surfboard manufacturing process. The waste can be turned into useful products. So I thought, ‘What other products can we create from all this waste?’ Then the idea came to make a skateboard deck using the recycled materials.
Surfboards are extremely laborious to build. Once you add the time spent building a product, it becomes impossible to sell at an affordable price. The end goal is to eliminate waste from the surfboard manufacturing side; but for the amount of waste we produce, we have to make a product that is going to be easy to manufacture and upscale. Tying all those things together is what led to us making the skateboards. They are extremely high-quality products that are tied to the surf industry.
Tell me some facts others might not know about surfboard production waste.
In terms of surfboard waste, every shortboard that is up to six feet long produces 6-10 pounds [3-5 kg] of waste. The waste is foam, fibreglass, excess resin that drips on the floor, stir sticks, sandpaper and tape. Usually, that goes to the landfill. We have a huge granulator that we put that waste through. It eats it up and turns it into raw, shredded materials that we use to build the core for our skateboards.
What are the logistics of the manufacturing process?
We are using a mix of virgin and recycled materials. There are zero virgin materials that go into making the cores, which are 100% recycled. The core is lightweight, extremely impact resistant, and we use that, wrapped in fibreglass, to make the ‘guts’ of our boards. They are built like surfboards in the sense that they have foam cores that are wrapped in fibreglass and injected with resin.
Since the boards are developed like surfboards, how durable are they?
We always get questions about the longevity of the boards. People think, ‘If it’s built like a surfboard does it have the same fragility as one?’ One thing we like to note is the strength of the boards. It’s unreal. Since we have been building prototypes, we haven’t had one break. We had one run over by a car going 30 miles [48 km] an hour, and it didn’t snap. It’s pretty crazy how strong they are. They are built to be bulletproof.
How many models are you going to be releasing as you launch the brand this Earth Day 2021?
Two. One is a 24” (60 cm) mini-cruiser, called the Sprat. And the other is the 30” (76 cm) surfskate model which is based on Ryan Harris’ Electrical Ninja surfboard. We plan on always collaborating with surfers to release the surfskate models. So we got together with Ryan and we pulled his CNC file [the software that shapers design and cut boards with] that he uses for the Electrical Ninja. Then we tweaked it to add the skateboard concaves and then shrunk it down, and cut it on the CNC and built the mould off of that. That skateboard is 100% faithful to his shape and design.
I’ve often wondered if there is a way to recycle old wheels. Are you looking to see if there is a space to repurpose urethane?
We have thought about that. There is a huge problem with recycling urethane. The industry in general has a hard time finding a way to recycle wheels. We are talking with an awesome woman in the Santa Monica / Venice area who is finding amazing ways to recycle skate wheels. We have partnered with her to source all of our used wheels, with which she can find other products that she can make. She has made some yoga mats, for example.
Thanks for taking the time to speak with me, Marcelo. Any closing thoughts?
Our whole brand is a niche for surfskates and surf-style skating. We plan on growing it and offering different styles of skateboards. There is just a lot more research that goes into developing the shapes for trick boards. We solely construct all the moulds ourselves. It’s an arduous process to get where we are to develop each model. At this point, we are a company that is a lot different from what a lot of people think. We didn’t say, “Hey, let’s start a skateboard company because we love to skate and want to get in the market.” We were already in the market of making surfboards, so it was just trying to figure out an outlet for the waste. We wanted to create a product for the niche before we expand to different styles.
Finally, when you recycle a product and add virgin materials to create a new product, it only extends the product’s life. At one point, that will end up going back into the trash once the product has lived its life cycle. The cool thing about our company is that if you want to change to a new board, we allow you to send the board back to us for future boards. We have a program where you can do that, and get a discount on your next board, to keep the closed-loop system going.
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