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Sterling Rope's Rope Redemption Program for Retired Climbing Ropes

Submitted by jasonclements on 2008-11-04

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by Jason Clements

One of the great things about Cells for Cells is that by donating to our program, you’re doing two good things in one: helping families that are battling cancer, and reducing waste through recycling. It’s our commitment to reducing needless waste, (and CFC co-founder, Jason Clements' love for rock-climbing) that’s led us to a partnership with Sterling Rope.

A high-tech nylon rope manufacturer, Sterling Rope recently launched its Rope Recycling Redemption Initiative, making it the only company in the United States that recycles nylon rope. Because we support Sterling Rope’s commitment to the environment, we decided to ask Outdoor Product Manager John Branagan some questions to increase awareness of this fantastic program.

The Sterling Redemption Initiative was actually John Branagan’s brain child. We spoke with John to ask him some questions about his program, his passions, and why programs like Cells for Cells and the Sterling Initiative are so important.

Jason: Sterling is leading the way in climbing rope recycling, how did it all start?
John: I was inspired by my wife (who wanted me to get rid of my 'retired' ropes that were kicking around our house) and by an image of ropes in a dumpster at Yosemite. Such a waste...

Jason: Is Sterling Rope really the only company in the US that is recycling rope?
John: YES. Millet does it in Europe, but not here in the US.

Jason: Can you recycle any kinds of rope?
John: Yes, any nylon (dynamic) rope can be recycled.

Jason: What happens to a recycled rope?
John: It is sent to a recycler that specializes in fibers. It is reprocessed and pelletized to be used in other manufacturing processes.

Jason: Where do I buy/support the companies that use recycled ropes to create new products?
John: Go to for more information.

Jason: Do you see the other climbing industries (shoes, hardware, etc.) following your lead and creating recycling programs?
John: YES - there is a company that is taking back bouldering crash pads. I hope more try to do it.

Jason: How does Sterling's effort really have an impact on me?
John: We all have choices, and I hope that our efforts impact you the climber to choose a brand that is at least trying to make a difference in our world.

Jason: How many miles of rope would you guess you’ve have recycled?
John: Well it is thousands and thousands of pounds so far, and the average rope a climber uses is just under 10 lbs.

Jason: What is Sterling's ultimate recycling goal?
John: Our goal is simple: to provide an outlet for people to easily recycle their retired ropes with the least amount of impact on the environment.

Jason: So how can I recycle my rope?
John: 1) Look for Sterling Rope Redemption centers at climbing comps, slide shows, festivals, crag cleanups and indoor gyms around the country.

2) Send the retired rope right back to us at:

Sterling Rope Company, Inc.
C/O: Rope Recycling Program
26 Morin Street
Biddeford, ME 04005-4413

Jason: How do I promote rope recycling at my gym?
John: Ask the gym owner or manager what they do with their old ropes and tell them about the Sterling Rope program (

Jason: Okay, so what's the deal with recycling cell phones? Why is a rope company promoting cell phone recycling?
John: Everything that can be recycled should be recycled. I feel it is our responsibility to spread the word that old ropes or old phones are NOT trash— they are resources that need to be recycled!

Jason: How did you get hooked up with Cells for Cells?
John: Over e-mail. (Jason's note - I reached out to Sterling rope after seeing their ad in Urban Climber about their rope recycling program.)

Jason: Hey man, I know there are tons of cell phone recycling programs – why is Sterling promoting Cells for Cells?
John: Cells for Cells has put more thought and research into the idea than most.

Jason: Let's get away from business – how long have you been climbing?
John: Since 1989, but I'm still a recreational hacker...

Jason: What are your favorite shoes? John: My new favorites are Evolve.

Jason: Where is your all-time favorite place to climb?
John: Too many great choices! The places closest to home are always the best (North Conway, NH for me) but the New River Gorge in West Virginia is amazing!

Jason: Did you work at Sterling first and then become a climber or vice versa?
John: I was a climber first.

Jason: What are your favorite climbing websites?
John: NE Climbs ( It is small and local.

Jason: What are your favorite climbing magazines?
John: Alpinist, Climbing, Urban Climber, Rock & Ice, and DeadPointMag

Jason: What cell phone do you currently use?
John: Moto Razor

Jason: Any new ropes coming out?
John: Our NEW Ion 9.5 is just hitting stores and has been getting great reviews.

Jason: When you are climbing outdoors, do you see signs that the climbing community has good stewardship?
John: Yes. I think the Access Fund, HERA foundation, and Climb for a Cure are all great examples.

Jason: What can climbers do to be better at recycling?
John: Think of everything they buy, from bottled water to rock shoes: we need to ask ourselves, ‘when this thing has stopped being usable, what am I going to do with it?’

Jason: What can anyone do to be better at recycling?
John: Add to preexisting programs like the Access Fund or HERA Foundation. Increase your efforts. If your local recycling center doesn't take an item like batteries or # 5 plastics, don't give up! The neighboring town might. If you look online you can find a way to recycle lots of things.

Jason: Last words?
John: There is no Silver Bullet solution to better living. There is however "Silver Buckshot" - if we all do a small part to contribute to solving a problem like excess waste we can have a serious impact.


For more information on the Sterling Rope Redemption Initiative, please visit their website at

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