3 minutes reading time (642 words)

Recycled Hope

This week Bikes for the World donated our 160,000th bike. Looking back at our last leg of the journey, we couldn't have done it without the commitment from our long term recycling partners. Because our source of donated bikes is so diverse we were able to keep our program rolling along at a steady pace...just not at the volume we've become accustomed to. Because of a decrease of volunteer manpower and closures in the countries where we supply bikes, slow and steady turned out to be a manageable pace for 2020.

It's been a challenging year for all of us. When the pandemic shut us down just as we were ramping up to start our busy spring collection season, we had no idea when we would be back, how we could help our partners from home, and where we would find the bikes we needed to keep the program rolling. 

So far this year (we still have one month left) our bike donations are down 50%. This has a significant impact on our program and our partner programs around the world who rely on those bikes for transportation, revenue, and even healthcare. But thanks to our long standing partnerships with several local landfills we were able to keep our partners supplied with some bikes on a scaled back, but regular schedule.

Throughout late spring and this summer, those waste management sites at Alpha Ridge, Howard County, I-66 Transfer station in Fairfax and the I-95 Landfill complex in Lorton were critical cogs that kept us moving. So far this year we rescued 2,817 bikes from those recycling centers combined and we still have six more weeks to go! This is 40% of the bikes we donated in 2020.

In the beginning, we were concerned that sitting out April and May threatened chain reactions in our program. Spring is when we host the bulk of our community led events where we collect thousands of high quality bikes through valuable community connections. This also comes with generous financial contributions mostly from those individual donors dropping off bikes at a collection.

Just for comparison, during the same two month period in 2019, we brought 5,271 bikes into the warehouse. This is nearly half of what we donate to our overseas partners annually. This year we've only donated 7,176 bikes total.

This past spring we were actually doing very limited pick ups between March 12 and mid May, heeding the directives of our county executive to stay safe at home. Meanwhile, folks at home were cleaning out their garages and sheds and taking unwanted items to the landfills where they piled up fast...bikes included. Despite our pleas for people to please hold on to those bikes until the quarantines were lifted, many perfectly good bikes left at landfills, even where we have drop offs, were recycled as scrap.

Eventually through communication at landfills and BfW, donors got the message to simply wait. Within a few weeks we were back to picking up bikes first at recycling centers, then our bike shop partners, who remained open throughout the pandemic.  Finally we resumed our collection events first at our warehouse with contactless drop off opportunities and eventually back within the community working with groups and volunteers.

Thanks to all of our partners, most especially these vital recycling centers, we managed to maintain our baseline donating two containers of bikes throughout the year. On average our relationship with waste management sites brings in 500 bikes a month and keep our volunteers busy in the warehouse. We brought back those volunteers, working one or two at time, back in May and they also helped keep the program going all summer and fall. 

We still have a long road ahead of us, but with your help we will get through this and help our beneficiaries recover faster and better despite the challenges that defined 2020. THANK YOU!

Featured Volunteer: Richard Silva
Featured Volunteer: Densroy Reid