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Lehigh alums generate sustainability through skateboards

Lehigh alumni David Stover ’07 and Kevin Ahearn ’07 started with a global issue and a simple question -- how could a company take the massive amount of plastic waste in the oceans and turn it into an untapped free resource for manufacturing?

The answer? Skateboards.

The mechanical engineering graduates returned to Lehigh University campus in April to discuss their innovative angle towards global sustainability through their company, Bureo Skateboards.

The Bureo team -- Stover, Ahearn and friend/co-founder Ben Kneppers -- began their skateboard design last summer and wrote a business plan before applying to the StartUp Chile competition for an opportunity to secure funding and office space for their project. The idea was to develop a sustainable, recycled plastic skateboard using the plastic soup found off the coast of the South American country.

Once Stover, Ahearn and Kneppers were accepted into the program and began looking into types of plastics that could be used for their boards, they quickly realized that consistency was key and that they’d have to focus on one type of plastic waste to recycle and collect. The team settled on recycling the derelict fishnets that are commonly used in fishing throughout Chile and the world.

"We found that the nets had a compound that we could use to make skateboards," explained Stover. "It’s durable and doesn’t breakdown as quickly as other plastics."

The Bureo team began determining a way to collect these fishnets. The team set up 'Net Positiva', the first fishnet collection and recycling program in Chile, with net disposal points for fishermen which turned into the raw materials for their skateboards.

"We had to do everything from A-Z," Ahearn said. "We [started] the recycling program, found a manufacturer and design to make an innovative skateboard."

The team is beginning manufacturing and will begin selling and delivering their first boards to the market after their Kickstarter program ends in mid-May. The company has already more than doubled their initial goal of $25,000.

"After receiving advice from people, we realized that we need to make a product that's as cool as or cooler than the competitor's product," said Stover, "and then have the eco-story supporting the product in the background."

In 2013, American companies amassed over $60 billion in skateboards sales, and with 90% of consumers preferring to buy eco-friendly products, the choice seemed natural for these budding entrepreneurs.

The "Minnow" board is neither a longboard nor a trickboard, but rather what the team has nicknamed the "from classes to beaches" board, perfect for transportation under a mile. The board comes equipped with a locking feature, allowing one to lock the board to a fence or bike rack without fear of it being stolen.

Bureo will continuing touring the country through the summer and leading beach cleanups throughout California.

Ahearn and Stover stressed to students in attendance of the importance in taking advantage of the Lehigh Alumni and Faculty Network and to continue developing entrepreneurial ideas.

You can learn more about the company at bureoskateboards.com.

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