Ron D Swan

This small outfit, based in Castlemaine, Victoria, make a range of bike accessories: panniers, leg bands, vests and shoulder bags.

Rather than using the usual sustainability criteria for assessing companies, I have just lifted an entire section from their website, which covers most of the environmental issues:

“The primary aim of Ron D Swan is to make sustainable products for humans on (and off) bicycles.

We love cycling because of its clean human powered nature, its low, low running costs and its availability to anyone who wants to get past the boring bits faster.

Tali, speed demon guy, Castlemaine, VIC

Reclaiming discards and giving them a new lease on life has always been a passion of the Cathy, founder of Ron D Swan. So much is thrown away that can be put to creative and beautiful use.

We want all our products to stand the test of time in their intended use, but also aim for them to be deconstructed and recycled at the end of their life.

This means that we source materials that other people, generally larger industry, throw away. We like to think of ourselves as WOMBLES in that respect. We also consider the whole lifecycle of our materials and the products they are made into. We really, really, dislike waste.

We research the provenance of all our materials, weigh up their pros and cons and reject some materials after this analysis. This also means we have to lobby manufacturers and distributors to offer substitutes to the energy intensive and ecologically unsound plastics that dominate the market.

Other aspects of our practice are that we use 100% Greenpower, Post Consumer waste office paper and printed products (also using soya based inks). We source office furniture and factory shelving 2nd hand whenever we can. We post out our products using 100% recycled cardboard boxes and paper tape, or use salvaged plastics.

Breaking down our products:

CANVAS (reclaimed): is used as bag outers, this is heavyweight poly/cotton (ie very durable) and is, for the most part, bought as offcuts or roll-ends (either no use, or of very limited use to larger industry and therefore in danger of ending up on the scrap heap). Half of the of the canvas we use was woven and printed in Melbourne, Australia and the other half woven in India, and then printed and proofed in Melbourne.
We’ve now included an option for the pannier liner made out of reclaimed, but new, 8oz canvas.

VINTAGE CANVAS (reclaimed): we have sourced new canvas that is up to 40 years old and is still in perfect condition. This canvas was forgotten in the corner of a factory, waiting to be rescued. These are usually the really colourful designs we have. The Vintage canvas is all cotton and was grown, woven and printed in Australia. It is also extremely rare, hence the price difference in the products.

PVC (reclaimed): PVC is used in legbands, pockets, and bag inners. It is also used in hard form as backing boards in panniers. This is not recyclable so we use it ONLY when sourced as discards. It is a very durable material, so when saved from the scrap heap, we can extend its life and limit its negative environmental impact. If it counts for anything, most of the pvc we source as offcuts is made in Australia.

WEBBING (new): We use new polyester seatbelt webbing on all our bags as it is very strong and durable. Polyester, while a less evil plastic, is still made from oil so we are researching alternatives for the future such as hemp. The really good thing is that all our webbing is made in Melbourne.

PLASTIC BUCKLES (new): On our pannier bags we have used plastic buckles, loops and sliders. We’ve found the best buckles we could. They are made in Taiwan primarily.

METAL SLIDERS (new): are used on shoulder bags and inside the pannier for the shoulder strap anchor. These are all made in either China or Taiwan.

ZIPS (new): We choose Australian made YKK zips, the best we know exist.

REFLECTIVE TAPE (new): We choose 3M-brand reflective tape because of its reputation for reflective reliability.

BICYCLE SPOKES (reclaimed): We recognise the strength of the hardened stainless steel bicycle spoke and try to rescue and reuse these by sourcing discarded wheels.
Spokes were used as hooks in our original panniers, they aren’t a part of the new ones unfortunately. But we look for ways to use more spokes, and all parts of the humble spoke. Our quest is not yet complete.”

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