As many alpine adventurers know, wax is key to keeping skis and snowboards quick on the slopes. It also serves to protect the equipment for longer. Unfortunately, much commonly-used wax contains chemicals which can be harmful to wildlife, the environment and humans. Perfluorochemicals (PFCs) are common in various non-stick coatings such as ski and snowboard wax. PFCs don’t break down in the natural environment, meaning their harmful effects can last for years. With this in mind, the EU-funded NZERO project has been working on a natural, biodegradable ski wax. “NZERO’s aim is to minimise the environmental impact of sports activities. We develop, manufacture and sell advanced organic waxes and resins for lubrication to improve the performance and the practice of sporting activities,” says Guillem Capellades, CEO at Marteen Sports World and NZERO project coordinator. The most surprising aspect of the project was how shocked skiers and snowboarders were by the idea that waxes can cause environmental damage. “Most skiers and snowboarders don’t realise that their activities leave a trail of mineral oil over the mountain that can leach into water supplies.” The ski wax is already available in the market. In 2017 it was awarded the Eco Achievement Accessories ISPO Award in Munich. The team has also been recognised with the 2019 ECO AWARD from the German Ski Federation.
A wax for all circumstances
NZERO developed specific waxes for each type of adventurer, including alpine and cross-country skiing and snowboarding. The team created temperature-specific waxes, designed to work best within a certain range of snow temperatures, which can vary with moisture levels, air temperature and other factors. Using temperature-specific waxes requires following ambient weather conditions. The differences for each specific ski wax depend upon how ingredients are balanced to obtain a hard and strong formulation for different types of snow. Colder temperature waxes do better in warmer snow, for example. “We look for waxes with an organic profile, of completely natural origin – basically vegetables – without traces of paraffins or hydrocarbons, and 100 % free of perfluorooctanoic acids. The final result is a fully biodegradable wax that does not depend on raw materials processed from oil,” explains Richard Croyle, chief innovation officer at Marteen Sports World. Importantly, the waxes are completely free of nanoparticles. “We also care strongly about this, as release to the environment of particles of this size can create unknown human and environmental effects,” Croyle adds.
Routes of innovation
The Horizon 2020 grant was instrumental to the team in the project development stage. “It gave us an opportunity to understand several commercial realities that as a technical development company we had not paused to look at properly,” explains Capellades. The first phase of the project allowed the team to assess and gauge the market size for the wax and to find new channels for market introduction. The NZERO team are also working on environmentally friendly bicycle lubricant. Croyle concludes: “Moving forward, we have plans to develop lubricants and waxes for other applications. At NZERO, we want to apply technical research to allow our customers to enjoy sport whilst being in full harmony with nature!”
NZERO, wax, skiing, alpine, environment, harmony, nature