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Recycling Old Bicycles

There comes a sad time in every bike’s life when it no longer meets the needs of its owner and gets put out to pasture. There’s no need for its useful life to end, however, unless it’s been completely wrecked. There are many organizations out there which will take your retired steed, fix it up, and find an owner in need of it.

The whole idea of being able to recycle old bikes for new owners first came to my attention when I saw the website for Re~Cycle (www.re-cycle.org). This UK-based organization fixes up old bikes and sends them to Africa. There they are sent to over 16 countries to meet the transportation needs of local individuals. So far, over 36,000 bicycles have been distributed in Africa by Re~Cycle since 1998.

Further intrigued by this idea, I did an internet search for more organizations, particularly interested to see what was happening in the USA. The next organization I found was Recycle Bicycles (www.recyclebicycles.net), based in Denver, Colorado. Director Bruce Lien told me that a group of seven or so volunteers refurbishes bikes and distributes them to adults and kids in the Denver metro area. He also said, “We do give approximately 100 bikes annually to One Nation Walking Together, a non-profit that trucks donated items to various Native American reservations in surrounding states, including Pine Ridge, the poorest 80 square miles in the United States.”

Recycle Bicycles also donates extra bikes to Bicycles for Humanity’s Colorado chapter for further distribution. Bicycles for Humanity (www.bicycles-for-humanity.org) has chapters in nine states in the US, as well as in Canada (many locations), Australia and The Netherlands. Working with partner programs in Namibia and Uganda, B4H helps to change lives for millions of poor people by providing resources and support for collecting used bikes in North America and Europe and distributing them in accountable and efficient ways in developing countries.

I asked Bruce if he knew of any other organizations recycling bikes in this manner. He pointed me to www.ibike.org, the website for the International Bicycle Fund. According to their website, IBF is a “non-governmental, nonprofit, advocacy organization, providing information and resources promoting sustainable transport and international understanding to make this planet a healthier and happier place to live. Major areas of activity are non-motorized urban planning, economic development, bike safety education, responsible travel and bicycle tourism, and cross-cultural, educational programs.” Clicking on the Environment link on their home page will lead you to another link, Donating (Recycling) Bicycles, Parts & Accessories. There you have the ability to learn more about recycling bicycles and find organizations collecting bikes and distributing them to those in need.

Pedals for Progress (www.p4p.org) has sent over 125, 000 bikes around the world in 20 years. Collecting bikes in New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania, Pedals for Progress has partner organizations in countries in Central and South America, Africa, Pakistan, Moldova, the Solomon Islands and elsewhere for distributing the bikes to needy people. Their mission is “to supply economic development aid by recycling bicycles and sewing machines in the U.S. and shipping them to the people of the developing world.”

Trips for Kids (www.tripsforkids.org) has “opened the world of cycling to over 75,000 at-risk youth since 1988 through mountain bike rides and Earn-a-Bike programs.” With independent chapters across the USA, Canada and Israel, TFK accepts donations of bikes, cash and time to help “combine lessons in confidence building, achievement and environmental awareness through the development of practical skills and the simple act of having fun.”

These worthy organizations are just a few who are willing to help you put your unused bicycles back to work. If none of these move you to donate, local bike shops may know who is coordinating used bike collections in your area or an internet search may give you other ideas. Please consider donating your old bike to a worthy cause rather than letting it rust in a shed or take up space in a landfill.

Ride safe and have fun!

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