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Brazil: Muzzi Cycles launches the first recycled plastic bicycles

An interview with Juan Muzzi, the founder of Muzzi Cycles and creator of the first bicycle made from recycled plastic bottles.
Brazil: Muzzi Cycles launches the first recycled plastic bicycles
Brazil: Muzzi Cycles launches the first recycled plastic bicycles

Presentation of the frame made from recycled plastic bottles.

Your professional career, and your personal life, are quite amazing. Can you sum them up in a few words?

Let’s not exaggerate, it is simply the journey of a person with societal ideals, who is very curious and who likes to keep moving forward. Although I have lived in Brazil since 1970, I was born in Uruguay, which I fled during dictatorship of the 1970s/1980s after obtaining a degree in mechanical engineering from the Universidad del Trabajo del Uruguay.

Like many people from my generation, I ended up in Brazil. As a jack-of-all-trades, I attempted to develop and sell a great many objects. Success finally came with the Mola, a toy. It is a large and very flexible spring that is fun to send down a flight of stairs. I am sure you also have it in Europe! In short, thanks to the profits from the Mola, I turned my attention to plastics and created Imaplast, an industrial design firm, manufacturing injection-moulded plastic objects. I also like to describe myself as an artist, I paint a lot and I have been fortunate enough to have had a few exhibitions to my name.

So, it is through Imaplast that you came up with the idea of creating a bicycle from recycled plastic?

To be quite frank, the idea of designing a bicycle for all budgets had been in my head for decades. I got my first bicycle at the age of 14. In Uruguay, it was almost a luxury. The bicycle gave me freedom and independence. While working in injection-moulded plastics, I thought that it should be possible to manufacture a bicycle with that material that has many qualities. First of all, it is inexpensive, can be easily moulded, can be dyed any colour, is easy to clean, lightweight and strong. Finally, plastics being flexible materials, by definition, the frame absorbs shocks very well and no shock absorbers are required. A real panacea. I then worked on designing a polyamide frame in the early 2000s. Then, over time, I became aware of the importance of the environmental issues surrounding plastics. I therefore decided to make the frame from recycled plastics. I opted for the PET used in bottles, a common polymer that is easy to recycle. I am the very proud holder of the world’s only patent for the manufacture of a bicycle frame using recycled plastics.

Have you been able to make this bicycle available to all budgets?

Unfortunately not! For the simple reason that a bicycle is more than just a frame. I have to use suppliers for the other parts: the wheels, handlebars, the transmission system, the brakes, etc. All of this increases the price. Despite selling thousands of bicycles every year, it is still not enough to reach economies of scale. We are only present in South America.

Great success in South America for a bicycle made from recycled PET.

How do you source the recycled PET?

I buy it from recyclers in the form of pellets. I do not actively participate in collection. However, I do sometimes give my time to charity projects through NGOs that collect used plastics. Used bottles should be seen as a resource rather than waste. The circular economy has a future. It is sometimes more expensive to incinerate a plastic such as PET than it is to recycle it. Putting them in landfills is nonsense.

200 used PET bottles are enough to make a bicycle frame of recycled plastic.

From PET bottle to recycled PET bicycle frame after a couple of minutes in an injection moulding machine. A perfect illustration of the circular economy!

How are the frames made?

It is all very simple. Pellets of recycled PET are injected into a mould, and a brand-new frame comes out the other side in under three minutes.

200 bottles are all that is needed to manufacture a frame. We then assemble the different parts (close to one hundred in total) and we then sell our bicycles. We are an SME based in the region of Sao Paulo and I am proud of being able to contribute to local employment.

What are your plans for the future? Will we be seeing your bicycles in Europe?

As I said before, we are working on it. As a South American, I see Spain as a gateway to the European market. I also have many other projects, such as offering a bicycle to each inhabitant of Easter Island, for instance. I believe that we will be able to do this soon as we have approached an NGO that is very close to the inhabitants of that island in the middle of the ocean.

Undeformable, unbreakable, all Muzzi recycled plastic bicycle frames undergo stress tests before being put on the market. Above, a frame being dropped from a height of 20m.

As regards technologies, I have recently taken an interest in polymers that could be created from biomass. I am not yet certain of what can be achieved, but I think that it is an interesting avenue to explore. I am also thinking about creating new models of bicycles, such as a foldable bicycle for children that could be stored in a car’s boot. Finally, I am also looking at making other parts from recycled plastics. For the chain, for instance, the metal could be replaced with a notched plastic belt as can be found on some models of motorbikes. The main aim is to find a sufficiently strong recycled polymer, because we do not sell anything that has not successfully passed our battery of strength tests. Our products cannot be a source of issues or even accidents for their users, that is out of the question. In fact, our frames come with a lifetime warranty and are infinitely recyclable.

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