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The Bike Back Project

Visiting the Prison

Tucked away behind the hustle and bustle of Gloucester Road is HMP Bristol, the location of Life Cycle’s Bike Back scheme. At the start of May I went with Poppy to see the workshop where the scheme takes place – it was striking to see the huge quantity of bikes that come through the workshop, and them all stripped down into their constituent parts.

The mechanics talked me through the process of refurbishing the donated bikes, how they are deconstructed, and how the parts that are still in good condition are re-used in building the refurbished bikes.

A volunteer mechanic with refurbished bikes

I think the scheme is fantastic for the reason that it combats so many social issues in one project – it gives prisoners skills to help them re-build their lives once they have left HMP Bristol, it allows people on low income to buy a decent bike and, most relevantly for my internship project, it focuses on re-using bike parts which fits in with the goals for a circular economy.

As the project has grown, one challenge that has arisen has been what to do with all the parts that are not suitable for re-use. A lot of tyres from the donated bikes were very clearly too old or worn to be used again, so the question is what to do with the old rubber?

This is a question I will be looking into and investigating over coming weeks with the aim of finding an environmentally sustainable solution.

Back at the Create Centre

Back down south of the river, the results of my questionnnaire had come back from staff giving me more information about existing efforts to be sustainable and areas for improvement. 

I split areas to focus on into different categories including

  • Energy / lighting
  • Waste
  • Transport
  • Cleaning / hygiene products
  • Materials and equipment
  • Food and Drink

I wrote down findings on the sustainability of each of these areas with some action points for each. My findings were overwhelmingly positive, as to be expected for a organisation such as Life Cycle!  They are already very environementally conscious - their old electrical equipment is recycled by a local provider, milk for staff is delivered in glass bottles which are returned and reused and unsurprisingly almost all staff cycled to work!

For some areas, I wrote down some action points. For example, staff are confused about the recycling facilties at CREATE.  The CREATE Centre staff told me that quite often recyling ended up in the general waste (and vice versa), and after similar conversations with Life Cycle staff, it seemed that they were not sure of the level of sorting required by individuals rather than the centre.

To try and solve the confusion around recycling, I got in touch with the person who runs the Create centre and fed back what I'd found out.  I recommended that the signage at recycling points needs to be incredibly clear as how waste is to be sorted to ensure it all ends up in the correct place.