Old bikes given new lease of live through Barking recycling scheme

Volunteer Chris Rixon fixing a bike

Volunteer Chris Rixon fixing a bike - Credit: Archant

A workshop in the heart of the Gascoigne Estate is giving old and unloved bikes a second chance with a new owner.

Dariya Kazi 8 trying out a bike with Geoff Fletcher

Dariya Kazi 8 trying out a bike with Geoff Fletcher - Credit: Archant

The East London Waste Authority (ELWA) Bike Re-use Programme aims to prevent old bicycles from being turned into scrap metal, instead keeping them going for their original purpose.

Mechanic Nigel Mott fixing a bike

Mechanic Nigel Mott fixing a bike - Credit: Archant

The scheme involves people donating used bikes which are then given a thorough servicing and sold on again for a fraction of their original price.

Partly funded by Barking and Dagenham Council, the project was launched just over a year ago and works in partnership with sustainable transport charity Sustrans and south east-based community interest company Trailnet.

The bikes are picked up at sites all over east London and divided into three separate categories – those that can be economically refurbished, those that can be dismantled for parts and those that are simply dismantled for scrap.


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One of the aims of the scheme is to remove unroadworthy bikes from the area, so Trailnet offers residents the chance to trade in their old bikes for the cost of a chosen refurbished bike.

ELWA waste and recycling officer James Kirkham insists the scheme is benefiting a great of number of people.

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“The bike reuse programme is so far proving a success on many levels,” he said.

“From a local authority perspective, reusing a bike rather than recycling it is both environmentally and economically preferable, while there are clear benefits to the community in redistributing bikes locally, not just for those receiving them but all those learning how to refurbish and repair as well.

“We have found a surprising number are being brought to the centre, but we can always use more, so if you have an unwanted bike lying around, please bring it in.

“Don’t worry if you think it can’t be reused, as bikes beyond repair can still be recycled.

Almost 150 bikes have been sold to residents over the past 12 months, with another 50 going to other local projects.

One key beneficiary of the scheme is a successful bike build project where young people work under the supervision of an experienced mechanic to return a machine to good condition and then receive it for their own use.

Through the project, more and more families have taken up cycling, as Colin Newman, 52, Barking and Dagenham branch leader of the London Cycling Campaign, explains.

“It’s great for those slightly tentative about starting cycling,” he said. “People are more likely to give it a go if they only have to spend a few quid.

“It’s always a shame to see children outgrow their bikes when they don’t have access, but through the scheme they can now trade them in for another at a fraction of the price.

“From another point of view as well, it’s much better to have someone else use that bike, rather than locking it away in a garage or throwing it in the skip.”

Bike exchange days take part once a month on the Gascoigne Estate and form part of a four-borough initiative which also serves Havering, Newham and Redbridge.

The project has been so successful that a shop has been bought to act as a permanent base for all of the local cycling projects, in a bid to encourage the scheme and get more people out and about on two wheels.

For more information visit recycleforyourcommunity.com.

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