CleanScapes, a Seattle garbage-collection company, is working to recycle bicycles and keep them out of the landfill.
A year ago Rodney Watkins, a garbage hauler with CleanScapes, pulled his truck into the North Transfer Station in Seattle and saw one of those very pricey Cannondale bicycles with all its expensive components ready to be dropped into the garbage pit.
Why should perfectly good bikes become trash, Watkins wondered. And then he remembered a movie his children had watched, “Robots,” where the chief robot’s mantra was “See a need, fill a need.”
From that grew CleanScapes’ bicycle-recycling program, which at a Tuesday ceremony delivered the 400th bike to Bike Works, a nonprofit program that repairs bikes and provides them to disadvantaged youth. Money the program earns also goes to support youth programs.
“It’s astonishing what people throw away,” said Chris Martin, president of CleanScapes, which provides garbage pickup in parts of Seattle and in Shoreline.
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CleanScapes worked with Seattle Public Utilities to put containers with bicycles painted on them at the city’s North and South Transfer Stations. There is no charge to dump a bike.
Used bikes go into the containers, then to Bike Works. Those that can’t be saved are sold for scrap metal, which helps funds the recycling program.
The company plans to also put another container in Shoreline and is trying to get permission to use the county transfer station there.
Watkins, who has worked three years for CleanScapes, said that some weeks as many as 60 bikes fill the containers. As one of the containers was unloaded Tuesday, some of the bikes appeared to be almost new.
Watkins said that when he’s on his garbage route and sees a bike sitting outside for some time, he’ll leave a note asking if the owner would like to donate it to the Bike Works program.
When children outgrow their bikes, they can exchange them for larger ones through a program provided by Bike Works, said Jake Beattie, executive director.
In another program, kids learn to become their own bike mechanics by working at Bike Works, and they can earn a free bicycle, said Beattie, whose company operates in a huge warehouse in Columbia City.
It’s there that volunteers work on the bikes: Some will be sold; some donated. Last year, Beattie’s company sent 700 bikes to Ghana and South Africa.
“There’s 2,000 bikes that would have been in the waste stream we fixed,” said Beattie.
City Councilmember Mike O’Brien praised the recycling effort, pointing out the city’s goal is to take 60 percent of the waste stream out of the landfill.
“Here’s 400 bikes. Now 400 people will have a mode of transportation they didn’t have before,” he said.
Now that the bike-recycling program is well on its way, what does hauler Watkins see on the horizon?
Barbecues, he says. Many are tossed that could easily be repaired.
Joked Martin: Maybe they should start another company, Barbecue Works.
Susan Gilmore: 206-464-2054 or firstname.lastname@example.org