Location: Salina

Recycling Bicycles in Ellsworth

Here’s some information about a great program that saves bicycles from the landfill, puts prisoners to work, and provides bikes for needy kids — a win, win, win, all around!

From the Great Bend Tribune:

Sadly, especially in today’s struggling recession-strapped economy, a lot of young people come from families that can’t afford a safe bicycle, but that problem is being addressed with the help of a couple of unlikely sources in Kansas.

One is the local landfill and the other is a penitentiary.

Thanks to the watchful eyes of the Barton County Landfill staff and their efforts to save, load and transport cast-off bikes, a lot of kids around Kansas will be on the streets this summer season.

Landfill Manager Mark Witt reported recently that his staff has taken another load of bikes in for the recycling program.

“The Barton County Landfill transported 128 bicycles to the Ellsworth Correctional Facility for recycling/refurbishing,” Witt reported. “The bicycles are refurbished by inmates and then provided free of charge to individuals and organizations.”

Some of the bicycles are saved out of trash, and others are dropped off by patrons who know about the recycling program, Witt added. Anyone can donate a bike for the effort, no matter the condition, because even bikes that can’t be ridden in their current condition can be used for parts.

“The landfill accepts bicycles free of charge from the public for this program,” Witt noted.

Witt explained earlier that the bikes are hauled to ECF where they go through a rigorous process to make sure they will be safe to use. In some cases, Witt explained, the bikes are in almost new condition. Others are in worse shape.

The refurbishers make sure the frame is straight and safe and then begin to fix up the bike. That may include repainting it, replacing parts, putting on a new seat or doing other work. If the bike is not in good enough condition to renovate, Witt explained, it will still be used in the project and all good parts will be salvaged for use on other bikes. [read more]

The Ellsworth Correctional Facility’s Pedals for Progress/Bicycle Refurbishing Program has been reconditioning used bicycles since 1999, and provides bicycles to Kansas children, with excess bikes going to third world countries. The program reduces solid waste in landfills, provides meaningful and fulfilling work for inmates, and offer a means of transportation for those in need.

In 2004, 822 bicycles were distributed through the bicycle refurbishing program, with 449 of these sent to Guatemala through the Pedals for Progress program. An additional 500 bicycles were prepared for PFP shipment to the country of Columbia in South America. During 2005, Ellsworth shipped one containers holding 430 bicycles to Guatemala. Pedals for Progress is a nonprofit organization designed to assist the underprivileged in developing third world countries by providing them with inexpensive, nonpolluting transportation to get to work, school, and social services.

In 2007, the Coronado Crossing Adopt-a-Bike Program distributed a number of the bicycles to children in Dodge City, and earlier this year, the Optimist Club gave 75 bicycles to children in Pratt, Kansas.

Here is some additional info from Pedals for Progress about the program, from their 2004 newsletter:

Recycling Bicycles in EllsworthThe ECF bicycle program employs 15 inmates and provides valuable work for these men throughout the day. Their pay is provided by the State of Kansas and is not part of donated funds for the bicycle repairs. Additional supporting funds for this project come from the Ellsworth Kiwanis Club, which serves as the program’s sponsoring civic group. Through the Kiwanis, necessary funds for the purchase of supplies, parts, tubes and tires are provided.

Bikes leaving ECF are among the best bikes Pedals for Progress collects. After all, these bikes receive special treatment far beyond the usual P4P bike processing. To begin with, the shop area for the ECF Bicycle program is as well organized as a professional bike shop. And the work done to each bike is very thorough. They are cleaned, lubed and tuned up, and even receive some disassembly in order to grease bearings and thoroughly clean the drive components. Worn tubes and tires are replaced with new ones. And when needed, the ECF inmates even go so far as to repaint the bikes. The bikes are made new again.

Inspired by doing something that benefits others, the productivity of the inmates in this program is very high. In addition to learning new skills, this work is very heartening to the men, especially when they receive news about how the bikes are being used wherever they’ve been shipped.

Both ECF and Pedals for Progress are very proud of the relationship that has been created through bicycles and good will. As with all P4P programs, ECF helps to prevent a valuable resource—used bikes—from becoming part the vast waste stream of America and gets these bikes to very deserving people across the world. And as an added benefit, the ECF/P4P program provides meaningful work for men seeking to improve their
own lives while incarcerated.

The Kansas Department of Corrections reports that, as of 2008, “20 inmates are employed in this program. Since inception, approximately 13,916 bicycles have been donated to the program and 4,412 bicycles have been distributed to individuals throughout the state of Kansas, and 1,336 bicycles were distributed through Pedals for Progress.”

It’s wonderful to see used bikes finding new homes and making a positive difference in people’s lives!

Photo courtesy of Pedals for Progress.

Post tags:

About The Author

By Randy Rasa, editor/webmaster at Kansas Cyclist, the web's premier Kansas cycling information site, featuring authoritative guides to Kansas cycling clubs, bike shops, organized bike rides, touring, trails, and much more. [learn more]

Comments are closed.