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A dream that had been in the works for more than two years is now finally coming to fruition for mountainFLOW Eco Wax. The brand came on the scene in 2016 with a mission to provide a simple yet eco-friendly ski wax made without toxic fluorocarbons.
To get there, mountainFLOW partnered with The Wright, a Denver-based think tank, in a collegiate challenge with students from Western State University and Colorado Mesa University. They’ll begin collecting existing fluoro-based waxes on May 1, part of the brand’s larger “Fluoro Free Future Initiative” that launched last week on Earth Day. During the month of May, mountainFLOW will be working with retail and industry partners to collect fluorinated waxes from shops and consumers. Retail partner collection sites include: evo Denver; Powder7; and Salida Mountain Sports.
Fluorinated ski wax has been proven toxic to humans and the environment, affecting thousands of shop employees, racers, Nordic skiers, and others for decades. “And, while it is mostly prohibited to use during ski races, it is still legal for recreational use,” says Peter Arlein, Founder & CEO of mountainFLOW eco-wax, whose original fluoro-free eco-wax took two years and more than 200 formulations to develop. “There are thousands of pounds of fluorinated wax currently sitting on wax benches and on retail shelves around the world. Without a takeback or buyback program, it is almost certain that this carcinogenic wax will end up in the environment.”
Once in the environment, Arlein explains, fluorinated wax is there to stay. Known as ‘forever chemicals’ due to their propensity to bioaccumulate, these waxes never biodegrade.
According to the brand, the take-back program has been an idea in the works for years. “In Fall 2020, FIS (International Federation of Skiing) implemented a fluoro ban for all FIS races, which they have since walked back on. However, it was still perfectly legal to sell and use fluoro wax for recreational use,” explains Arlein. “With conclusive evidence that fluoros are harmful to humans and the environment, we thought that there should be an opportunity to take back fluorinated wax that was already in circulation—and to ensure that it would never be introduced into the environment.” Flouro waxes are still legal for World Cup and Olympics, but there’s a movement in the works to implement a ban.
“To be clear, this is not a ploy to get people to buy more mountainFLOW wax. In fact, we will almost certainly lose money on this project,” he says. “However, we feel strongly that it is the right thing to do and hope that it inspires others to take action.”
Also Read: mountainFLOW Launches Plant-Based Ski Wax
mountainFLOW is working with the Colorado Department of Health and Environment to ensure safe storage and disposal of the collected waxes. And while the EPA is currently outlining a method for safe disposal, until then, the CDPHE recommends that they just hold onto the wax.
“The Colorado Legislature is working on a bill that will ban the sale of consumer products that contain fluorinated compounds,” says Arlein. “While ski wax isn’t directly included in this bill, there is language that would support the future ban.”
So how do you know if you have any old fluorinated waxes lying around? Swix brand wax is labeled as LF (low fluoro) or HF (High Fluoro). Otherwise it is usually written on the package. Arlein says fluorinated waxes make up at least a third of the total wax market, including most race waxes. Almost all other ski wax on the market is petroleum based. MountainFlow waxes are entirely bio-based and made in the United States.
Things are off to a good start, Arlein reports, with the company already receiving waxes from all over the world. “We are also getting individual donations from folks who are interested in helping to solve this problem of toxic fluorinated wax,” he says.
The brand also just launched a line of plant-based, non-fluoro race wax to help fill the hole in the market for a high-performance product. Employing mountainFLOW’s exclusive Ceramic Nanotechnology, this new race wax is competitive with any non-fluoro race wax available.
Skiing isn’t the only sport that needs to clean up its act. mountainFLOW’s new line of plant-based bike products are helping the cycling industry eliminate toxins, as well. Nearly all of the bike lubrication products on the market are made from petroleum, and some also contain fluoros, so whatever you put on your bike eventually makes its way into the environment. mountainFlow’s new chain lube is completely biodegradable, and early reports say the product works just as well as any comparable product on the market. Maybe judge for yourself this summer?