Motorcycles often get a bad rap, environmentally speaking. The Italian motorcycle company GPR Italia is trying to change all that.
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“The motorcycle is the only truly sustainable mobility,” said Mauro Orlandi, owner and CEO of GPR Italia SRL.
GPR’s Impact Zero Project focuses on creating high-quality products that are efficient, recyclable and manufactured to bring their carbon footprint down to zero. Their motorcycle parts are built from 51% to 71% recycled material, and up to 88% of the product weight is recyclable, according to a video GPR produced on its Impact Zero Project.
An Italian motorcycle family business
Milan-based GPR Exhaust System was founded in 1968, so they been around for more than 50 years. The company describes itself as starting out as “a typical family business,” but has modernized with the times. Especially in thinking about how to keep up with Europe’s increasingly stringent requirements around noise and emissions. Orlandi says that GPR was ahead of the market in adopting sustainability measures.
“The family Orlandi, who owns GPR Exhaust Systems, has had always passion for the animals and the nature and moreover we have been always innovative regarding productions process,” he said.
Orlandi is proud of being an Italian company with Italy having a phenomenal number of motorcycle and scooter riders. GPR offers exhaust systems for more than 1200 models of scooters and motorcycles.
“Italy is the home of engines and especially of motorcycles and any category of accessory was born in Italy and then eventually copied abroad,” he said. “So we think we know in advance what a motorcyclist wants even now that needs are changing.”
Orlandi stresses the difficulty of guaranteeing that a product is really made in Italy. Many manufacturers may only apply an adhesive to parts made elsewhere and deem it Italian made.
Making sustainable motorcycle parts
When GPR decided to re-engineer its exhaust systems, the company looked at every part of the process.
“Materials commonly used for the motorcycle sector, such as carbon and aluminum type anti-corodal colored with silicone paints, have been eliminated from the processes or reduced at minimal use. They have an extremely onerous energy consumption and negative environmental impact,” Orlandi said.
Instead, the development department sourced recycled materials and stainless steel of Italian origin with green certifications. The lifetime of GPR exhausts was extended by 35%. All exhausts can be recycled when they’re no longer being used.
“Not only new parts have been developed, but also new packaging without plastic and polystyrene and totally made with recycled and recyclable cardboard or with the aid of cotton bags,” Orlandi said. “The machine park has been expanded again, with the inclusion of new systems that significantly reduce the consumption of water and energy (air cooling), as well as a new generation laser cutting machine that allows sheet metal cutting without the use of gas, but only with compressed air or the new welding laser technology.”
GPR is especially proud to be the first motorcycle exhaust producers to commit to Environmental Certification ISO 14021. This means they pledge to comply with self-declared environmental claims that are accurate, specific and verifiable.
“To explain in simple words, the Certification ISO 14021 puts the principles into practice of circular economy: reduce, reuse, recycle,” Orlandi explained. “It is the search for the production process that requires the maximum reduction in the extraction of new raw material, reduces material waste as much as possible and makes the final products easily recyclable as normal waste, and with a very high percentage of reusable material to make the cycle virtuous.”
GPR recently debuted its new parts at the EICMA 2021 Trade Show in Milan.
“We had a great response from the media during the EICMA fair,” said Orlandi. “Many interviews and services and the professional customers all appreciated the effort and the investments, especially because they were aware that it was not a market imposition, but a choice of company policy. They were also positively impressed by the fact that the new range of products will still have an affordable cost, with a price difference of only 10% compared to the previous range. For the public, the reaction will be slower because obviously the message must be conveyed daily, thanks to social media. A single event is not enough.”
GPR Park offsets CO2
To bring its environmental impact down to zero, GPR created an offset park. The wooded area sitting on 10,000 square meters in the province of Milan was about to be logged before GPR saved it. The company renamed it GPR Park and tasks it with absorbing enough fine dust particles to offset the amount emitted from manufacturing motorcycle exhausts. GPR estimates that the park will offset 37.5 tons of CO2 per year, which more than makes up for the seven tons of CO2 emitted from the company’s current process.
Motorcycles and sustainability
According to Orlandi, electric vehicles are not a better environmental solution than motorcycles.
“We continue to confuse exhaust pollution with the environmental footprint,” he said. “The new generation of endothermic engines has a low environmental footprint and a risible CO2 pollution emission, while an electric vehicle, which pollutes nothing during its use, has a very high environmental impact. Much higher than the endothermic engine because it requires continuously extracting the lithium for the batteries. By cutting down the forests to extract the lithium, they destroy the only real possibility of reducing global CO2 (i.e. the absorption of plants).”
Ultimately, choosing the most virtuous products comes down to consumers, Orlandi said.
“The key is in the hands of consumers, not the key of the motorcycle, but the key that can reward or penalize a company based on the crossroads on climate change,” he said. “It is time for companies to change, but it is time for consumers to change, too.”
Images via GPR