Sure-Grip Sugar Wheels were made for quad-roller skates and were popularized because of their “hybridity,” meaning they work well on outdoor and indoor surfaces. Sure-Grip is one of the oldest and most trusted skate wheel brands in the industry. The Sugar Wheels were the first wheels I bought and they truly work well on a variety of terrains. To create this product, Sure-grip uses a “new urethane mixture” and pouring technique which supposedly differentiates them from “toxic knock-offs.” Sure-Grip, however, provides very little information about the actual composition of these wheels nor the conditions workers experience in the factories that produce them. Urethane wheels, both in their use and production, pollute the Earth and Sure-Grip has not explored any alternatives.
Due to the limited information Sure-Grip provides on the composition and production of these wheels, I turned to similar products in the market to get more information. The hub of the Sugar Wheel is made of nylon and the coating consists of a urethane mixture. Nylon is a by-product of plastics, which are made from petroleum. Nylon is not biodegradable. The only path to recycle nylon is by giving it to a local recycling center, which may or may not have the means to recycle it. The coating is made of urethane that is also made from coal, oil or gasoline. The urethane exterior depletes with use. This process leaves micro-quantities of urethane in our roads and sidewalks, which will be collected by rain in storm drains which lead to the ocean. 10% of the oceans' micro-plastics are nylon. When used monthly outdoors, these wheels will wear in 4 to 5 years, which is a longer life-span than that of rubber wheels. Natural rubber wheels are biodegradable; however, their production has been discontinued by virtually all brands. Because Sugar Wheels work well on sidewalks and hardwood floors alike, they eliminate the need for two sets of wheels. In this way, they reduce the amount of wheels purchased.
These wheels reveal the many uses of fossil fuels. Crude oil must be taken out of the ground and heated at high temperatures in a process called fractional distillation. The refinery process for nylon and urethane requires a large amount of energy. Once the urethane is poured into the wheel mold, it must be baked in an oven at 240 degrees Fahrenheit for 40 min to an hour. These energy intensive processes are not sustainable. They necessitate oil mining and deplete a finite resource. Not only are these wheels made of fossil fuels, they require large amounts of fossil fuels for their production process. Sure-Grip has not provided any information as to how these wheels differ from “toxic knock-offs.” From the information I found about this product, Sure-Grip Sugar Wheels are indeed toxic.
Although Sure-Grip has put little effort into making their brand as a whole sustainable, some of their practices are rather efficient. Sure-Grip does not sell their products to the general public. Customers cannot make individual purchases online; they must locate a nearby dealer that supplies them. This method of distribution decreases the amount of carbon emitted for transportation purposes. Sure-grip recently created a vegan Stardust Skate, providing a leather-free option for customers. Their skates have interchangeable parts that maximize their life-span. Sure-Grip’s products are made in the United States; however, the company does not disclose any information about the working conditions in their factories. Their competitors have made much larger strides in reducing the amount of waste created in the production and packaging processes. Wheels made from recycled plastics, corn, and sugar have been proffered, but Sure-Grip has yet to make wheels from any of these materials. The urethane wheel that created the skate industry has seen very little innovation since its conception.