The Covid-19 lockdown created many challenges for third sector organisations across Scotland and our members have responded strongly and admirably to the crisis. Despite facing an almost overnight loss of trading income many community reuse and recycling organisations have been pivoting their efforts to support those in their communities who were isolated or were particularly vulnerable during the lockdown.
In this new series of Lockdown Conversations, our CEO, Michael Cook, speaks to some CRNS members about how they have been supporting their communities through this difficult time.
What was the impact of Covid-19 on bike reuse projects?
The impact of lockdown on bike reuse projects was instant and severe; recycling centres were closed, bike donations from the public dried up, volunteers who were shielding were at home isolating and many staff were furloughed.
Trading income from bike sales and bike servicing dropped overnight and it would have been tempting to focus only on the organisation surviving this crisis. However, that is not what these organisations did, they looked at the needs of their communities and considered how they could respond.
How did you respond to the needs of your community?
Angus Cycle Hub in Arbroath started by offering free bike servicing to key workers – when this opened it had 27 bookings made in the first hour! Throughout lockdown its bike recycling programme continued and in June, because the council sites had just reopened, it had over 100 bikes donated each week. They worked with key commercial partners to provide bikes to key worker staff – for example they provided bikes to Dover Fueling Solutions who were delivering fuel and providing logistic services for the emergency services during the lockdown. As well as their standard servicing offering, they are also registered with the Scottish Government’s Cycle Repair scheme, and have serviced over 400 bikes since the lockdown began.
Just Cycle is in the Scottish Borders town of Galashiels and supports a large rural area with a limited public transport network. Their response to the lockdown was to create a free bike library which provided recycled bikes, fully serviced to key workers to use for as long as they needed it. This included doctors working on the front line who commented that it had really helped their mental health by being able to cycle before and after a stressful day. Just Cycle called it a library because the last thing they wanted was the bikes to end up in landfill.
The Bike Station created a Hero Bike Scheme (see news article in the Guardian newspaper) which supplied over 200 bikes to key workers in Edinburgh and Perth. One recipient said that this scheme had “saved my life” – he could not have gotten to work and supported his family without it. Others commented how using a bike had really helped their peace of mind as they weren’t having to use public transport thus reducing the risk of contracting or passing on Covid-19.
What have been the environmental benefits?
Angus Cycle Hub has diverted 16-17 tonnes of bikes from landfill since the lockdown began.
Just Cycle is diverting 40-60 bikes from landfill each week which has significant associated carbon savings. The Borders roads were unusually quiet during the lockdown which made is possible for more people and families to try cycling safely.
Transport emissions are proving one of the most difficult area to find carbon savings. Jenny commented that Hero Bike recipients have reported reducing car use and if we can continue to shift people from private vehicles onto bikes for short journeys this has a massive benefit for the environment.
What policy changes are needed going forward?
Scott called for more support for grassroots organisations who are working on the ground. Angus Cycle Hub really appreciate the support CRNS have given but more support from policy makers and funders is needed.
Active travel is at the forefront of many people’s minds at the moment and as Jenny from the Bike Station said:
“If they saw the potential for active travel and really embraced it, if they built on what we have got and see how much people have enjoyed cycling and taken to it when the opportunity is there, they need to keep that opportunity open.”
Deborah would like to see dedicated facilities at Reuse Centres whereby bikes (and other products) can be more easily diverted for reuse. This would stop valuable resources being lost to landfill.
A dedicated set-aside area for reuse services at every recycling centre in Scotland is something CRNS are asking Scottish Government to legislate for in a new Circular Economy Bill.