What’s the environmental impact of recycling bicycles? For the Fort Collins Bike Co-op, it equals about eight tons of mass diverted from landfills per year. The Co-op even received a 2011 Environmental Stewardship Award from the Board of Larimer County Commissioners for its efforts.
The recycling program salvages bicycles that are bound for the dump as well as abandoned and donated bikes. Bikes recovered are either restored, have their usable components harvested for re-use, or they are broken down by material type and recycled. Proceeds from the recycled materials go to buy tools for the program. Last year, the Co-op processed 194 found and abandoned bicycles and another 150 that were donated.
Beyond recycling, the Co-op’s mission is to help everyone get up on two wheels. It gives the refurbished bikes to community members who can’t afford a bike on their own. And, in exchange for 10 hours of volunteer service at any local non-profit, applicants receive a bicycle. The Co-op also offers free classes on bike repair and maintenance, open to all members of the community on a first come, first-served basis. “We like to encourage self-sufficiency,” says Doug Cutter, the Co-op’s president. “Our used parts area is also a favorite haunt of many local bike collectors looking for that unique component to get their bike rolling again.”
In 2009, the Co-op partnered with the Village Bicycle Project to expand its reach to Africa. “We salvage more bikes than we can distribute locally,” explains Cutter. “Colorado bikes are now being ridden by healthcare workers, school children and farmers in Sierra Leone and Ghana.” To-date, the Co-op has sent more than 1,000 bikes to Africa.
This year, the Co-op celebrates its 10th birthday and is looking for a new home, as its current location is being sold. Cutter says they hope to stay in downtown Fort Collins and are currently accepting donations to help acquire and build the new facility.