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Feature report 2008 | The Influence of Global Warming on the Sports Equipment Industry

 

By May from FRT.


For nearly a century, humans have used so much fossil fuel such as coal and petroleum that a huge amount of carbon dioxide has been generated and emitted to the atmosphere, reaching a level of concentration that was not seen in the past 60 million years. With fast industrial development, man-made greenhouse gas such as carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), Chlorofluorocarbon (CFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and Sulphur hexafluoride (SF6), keeps increasing, resulting in higher temperature and greenhouse effect. Global warming has lead to climate changes, glaciers, tundra, accumulated snow, and icebergs are slowly melting, climate polarization, floods, droughts, intense heat, numerous typhoons, and rising seawater temperature. Mankinds damage towards tropical forests has also hindered photosynthesis that converts CO2 into oxygen, and the failure in this process is also one of the key reasons behind global warming.

The question of how we should enjoy the convenience brought forth by modern technologies while protecting Earths ecological environment is the focus of the world now.
All nations are currently working to solve the problem of global warming, and methods such as using high-efficiency energy and energy-saving policies, developing green energy or zero-pollution energy would also improve the situation. The use of green technology such as manufacturing low CO2-emission vehicles, using low power-consumption appliances, making high-efficiency motors, and using energy-saving light bulbs all help reduce the impact of humans on the Earth.

Regarding the Green Movement, the manufacturers of sports equipment face efforts such as developing and using environmental-friendly materials and enhancing the efficiency or design of power generators. Traditional plastic materials such as PE, PVC, PS, and PP cannot be fully decomposed in landfills and generate toxic substance when burned. In a natural landfill, however, biodegradable materials can be decomposed by microbes into CO2 and water, yet the application is restricted due to the high cost.

Manufacturers are trying to reduce the cost in order to increase its market potential so it can be applied in different sports products. Different from common petroleum-based products, the source of biodegradable materials is high-molecule compound based on agricultural products (such as PLA and PHB). Yet, both types of materials can use virtually the same kind of processing such as injection and extrusion machines.

The biodegradable materials currently on the market include:
(1) biodegradable materials acquired through chemical synthesis such as: polycaprolactone, Biomax, and eco-flex.
(2) biodegradable materials acquired through biochemical process such as: PLA and PHB.
(3) biodegradable materials that exists in nature such as fibers.
Applications of environmental materials on sports products include:
(1) Polylactic Acid (PLA):
biodegradable, such as golf-shoe spikes and other plastic products,
(2)Thermalplastic Elastomer (TPE) :
Biodegradable and allowed to be recycled and reused, such as yoga mats and plastic products.
(3) carbon fiber alloy: allowed to be recycled and reused with high plasticity, such as, golf clubs, tennis rackets, badminton rackets and etc. and
(4) Polyurethane: biodegradable, such as sports shoes and basketballs.
In terms of the application of environmental materials on the main structure of any sports equipment, aluminum, magnesium, or carbon fiber can replace steel, cast iron, or plastic in order to prolong the product life and reduce weight as well as protecting the environment. We can also use automatic power generators or ones that have more power-generating efficiency (such as an exercise bike that generates power when it is being peddled) to power electric appliances in order to save energy.
Global warming has also affected certain sports equipment industries. For example, many skiing resorts do not have enough snow since the snowing season has shortened, and the demand for related products has decreased, affecting the downstream and upstream companies. Head NV had trouble selling their skiing products, yet winter products make up more than half of their income. They thus started purchasing rainforest land, and it is estimated that the land they bought would store about 80 million tons of CO2 (about the total annual carbon emission in UK), which is their way to facilitate the Green Movement. On the other hand, the demand for summer outdoor products such as surfboards and swimwear will continue to grow.
As more and more people value the environment, future sports products will focus on being made from zero-pollution and environmental-friendly materials such as titanium alloy, carbon fiber alloy, and stainless steel ally composites. These materials will replace traditional steel and facilitate the Green Movement.