Got a new bike? Here’s what to do with the ‘old one’

5 Dec

As much as 98% of your old bike is reusable or recyclable

If you’ve invested in a new bicycle in the past few years, bought one or more for the family, even upgraded to a better used bike, chances are you still have an ‘old bike’ or two in your basement, garage, or cluttering up the storage. With as much as 98% of any bicycle reusable or recyclable, it doesn’t have to end that way.

Bikes for Cuba – Banes Races

by Donald Wiedman – Edited and Published as “Recycling Your Old Bike” by Pedal Magazine (Toronto, Canada) – Fall 2012

Used bicycles are the king of the 3Rs. If ride-able they are easily placed out at the curb for passers-by. If in parts, they can often be reassembled with little trouble. More and more used bikes and parts are also getting a second life travelling the world, as Canadian travellers transport them to friends abroad.

“For centuries, there’s been a massive re-use program going on,” says Lucie Robinson of the Recycling Council of Ontario. “So we don’t tend to see a lot of bicycles going to waste.” Municipal waste collection programs the RCO reports, do their part to keep bikes out of landfill, by routinely separating steel, aluminium, alloys and rubber for sale to local scrap dealers.

But as bicycle sales continue to increase – the Bicycle Trade Association of Canada’s figures show over 300,000, 325,000 and 350,000 units sold over the past three years – how will our garages, basements and storage spaces cope? Not to worry. An increasing number of Canadians are collecting used bicycles, and shipping them off to developing countries where they are much appreciated, and often desperately needed.

To donate or transport a used bike, contact one of these organizations below, or search online to find a bike recycler in your area.

Bikes for Cuba – Jackson’s Point, Ontario

About three years ago, Jeff Reid donated his first bike, his own, to a dilapidated high school racing program in eastern Cuba. Since then he’s been busy, convincing Greater Toronto Area cyclists to donate over 120 quality used racing bikes, and recruiting tourists to transport them to Cuba on their next beach resort holiday.

Working in and out of Toronto’s Pearson Airport, Jeff meets travellers at check-in as they depart – often around 4:00 in the morning. Handing over as many boxed bikes as requested, his friends in Cuba contact you at your resort to retrieve the bikes.

On Jeff’s website, look for videos of some very nice ‘old bikes’ ridden by energetic young cyclists, in and around Banes, Holguin and Varadero. In May, 16 year-old Bikes for Cuba protégé Miglay Font Almarales from Holguin was named to the Cuban junior national team. She began training in Havana in September.

Africycle – Uxbridge, Ontario

By providing affordable bicycles to Africans, Africycle is using the bike as a tool for change, with an impact “incredibly far-reaching in the lives of people challenged by the circumstances of extreme poverty.”

Africycle collects unwanted bikes of all types from across Durham region, and ships them to their bike shop ‘planted’ in Zomba, Malawi. There the bikes are refurbished for sale, with income going to nearby Grace Orphan Care, a support group for children who are disabled or orphaned by AIDS/HIV.

Opened in 2007, the bike shop now employs eight people, and has handled over 2000 bicycles. Grace Orphan Care has also grown, to offer programs for more than 200 children from five surrounding villages. In April, Africycle collected another 600 bikes. Many shipped to Malawi in mid-May.

Cyclo Nord Sud - Africa

Cyclo Nord Sud – Africa

Cyclo Nord-Sud, Montreal, Quebec

Cyclo Nord-Sud is a promoter of sustainable development based on “respect for the biosphere and its inhabitants.” Their broader vision encompasses principles of non-motorized transportation, the re-use of resources, and social justice and fair trade.

Collecting in and around Montreal, Cyclo Nord-Sud ships bikes to communities in over 10 southern countries – including Burkina Faso, Nicaragua, Togo and El Salvador. Southern partners ensure bikes go to individuals in households under the poverty level. They also commit to start “viable bike projects that produce bike sales at affordable prices to cover the international shipping costs of the second container.”

Cyclo Nord-Sud’s communications coordinator Lucie Poulin reports their first container of 2012 arrived in Africa in May, filled with their 40,000th bike shipped since 1999.

Bikes to Haiti, Mississippi Mills, Ontario

In 2011 ‘Bikes for Haiti’ was organized by Focus on Development in Mississippi Mills, to celebrate Bicycle Month and send a container full of bikes to the devastated St. Marc region in Haiti. Realizing the financial costs of shipping were just too great for a small community to sustain, organizers decided not to ship bikes again.

Instead, with the support of local bike shop owner Bill Barrie, they now collect, refurbish and sell bikes locally. This new approach has raised over $4000.00, enough to cover a year’s school costs for 100 children at Haiti’s Foundation for the Technological and Economic Advancement of Mirebalais. This fall, Bikes to Haiti volunteers are organizing their first ‘Tweed Ride’ to raise more funds for FATEM.

Bicycles for Humanity – Worldwide

Fourteen volunteer groups across Canada are part of the worldwide Bicycles for Humanity movement – an effort that has recycled over 50,000 bikes from six developed countries. B4H programs also recycle the containers the bikes are shipped in, converting them to local bike shops or ‘Bicycle Empowerment Centres’.

Here’s a look at a few Canadian B4H chapters. Visit the B4H website to look up, or launch, a chapter in your area.

John Henry Bikes, Vancouver, BC John Henry Bikes, led by owner Willie Cromack, is partnering with B4H in 2012 to collect 1000 used bikes for a community in north eastern Uganda. The BIG BIKE GIVE is “an opportunity for an old bike to provide a new beginning for someone a world away”.

B4H Calgary, Alberta The Calgary Chapter of Bicycles for Humanity provides a bike recycling service across the city. Taking bikes and getting them “in the hands of people who need them.” To-date they’ve sent two containers of bikes to Uganda, and are readying a third.

B4H Thunder Bay, Ontario Together since early 2007, and with the help of many local organizations, businesses and cycling shops, B4H Thunder Bay has sent bikes to Namibia, Gambia, Rwanda and Sierra Leone. They’ve even produced a video: “Where on Earth is My BIKE?” on YouTube and Vimeo.

B4H St. Bartholomew’s, Brampton, Ontario This busy chapter is organized by the congregation of St. Bartholomew’s church. Active users of the social media, they’ve collected over 1200 bikes, shipping their fifth container to Namibia last year. Follow their adventures @bikesforafrica on Twitter.

Cyclo Nord Sud - El Salvador

Cyclo Nord Sud – El Salvador

So you see, when you do finally decide to part with the ‘old bike’ – rest assured, there’re plenty of 3R opportunities out there to tap into. With the help of so many, across the country, around the world, or just down the road.

There’s plenty of information and people out there to help. Simple, and rewarding, the Mississippi Mills Residents Association website explains the ease of bike recycling best:

“Mountain bikes can be donated to Bikes for Haiti. Bikes that are in repairable condition can be left beside the metal scrap bin at Stanley Sanitation – People will pick them up for personal reuse. Really rusty ones go in the metal scrap bin.”


2 Responses to “Got a new bike? Here’s what to do with the ‘old one’”

  1. Steve Konkle 06/12/2012 at 7:12 pm #

    Ottawa has a few different organizations for re-cycling / re-using bikes. I believe we have a Bicycles For Humanity chapter which sends bikes overseas. We have re-Cycles ( a community bike shop where volunteers fix donated bikes in return for shop time to work on their own bikes. Co-located with re-Cycles is Cycle Salvation, a social enterprise that provides employment and bicycle mechanic training to the economically disadvantaged, who fix donated bikes and sell them in the shop.

  2. MotorBike Transport 21/06/2013 at 2:59 pm #

    They also make to start “viable bicycle tasks that generate bicycle sales at reasonable prices to protect the worldwide delivery costs of the second package.

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