In 2002 the City of Hamilton’s Waste Management Division was looking for new and innovative ways to divert materials in the waste stream from landfill. The city had recently adopted a goal of 65 per cent waste diversion and staff felt that a bicycle recycling program at the city’s three transfer stations would contribute to on-going diversion. The program was initiated when staff noticed that a large number of the bicycles dropped off by residents at the city’s waste facilities were still serviceable, but ended up either going to the landfill or being recycled as scrap metal.
A mix of adult, teen and children’s bikes were being disposed of and many of the bikes were still in good condition. Most only required minor repairs ranging from straightening out handlebars to replacing a pedal or inflating a tire or two.
Operational staff began removing all bicycles in good condition from the waste tipping floor or metal recycling bunker. The Waste Management Division didn’t have the staff resources required to refurbish the diverted bicycles so they turned to community groups such as MACycle, a McMaster University student organization. MACycle refurbishes bikes of all sizes and styles. The adult size bicycles are sold very cheaply to university students to encourage environmentally friendly modes of transportation while the children sized bicycles are refurbished and given back to the city at no cost.
City staff has continued to foster strong partnerships with other community partners including local grade schools. The schools accept the bicycles in order to provide students with bicycles as part of their bike clubs or to allow their students to gain experience in repairing bicycles as part of their automotive technology classes. In return, the schools refurbish the children’s bicycles and return them to the city at no cost.
Once retuned to the city, the bicycles are stored until December where they are provided at no cost to local charitable groups that in turn give them to children who may not otherwise receive a present for Christmas. Since 2002, more than 150 children’s bicycles have been given away as part of Hamilton’s annual Christmas bicycle giveaway event. With the assistance of community sponsors, the bikes are equipped with bells and each bike comes with a helmet promoting safe cycling.
Over the last several years the program has continued to grow in both the number of bicycles recycled and community awareness. At the end of 2006, over 530 bicycles were diverted through the program, which translates into the diversion of more than 5,000 kilograms of metal, rubber and plastic from landfill.
As the city has continued the program, advertising has been placed in the annual waste collection/option calendars, on the waste management website and in pamphlets available at various city offices and service centres. As a result, the program has really taken off. Over two tonnes of bicycles have been recycled to the end of August 2007 alone.
This program is truly a win-win for the residents and the municipality. Landfill space is preserved and a useable, valuable and environmentally friendly product is produced. The bicycle recycling program provides an opportunity for residents to be stewards of our environment and at the same time be active participants in our community.
Craig Murdoch is Manager of Waste Disposal for the city of Hamilton. Contact Craig at firstname.lastname@example.org