Bicycles collected from the landfill will be repaired and then donated to community groups. (Photo courtesy of Mark DeCourcey.)

R-Board program aims to break the cycle of two-wheeled waste

by | Jun 22, 2024 | ALLFFP, Fredericksburg, Non-Profits, Stafford

The recycling process is usually straightforward.

That soda can belongs in the aluminum pile. Your empty jar of salsa is bound for the glass recycling bin. That old magazine goes to the paper container. But what about that pandemic-purchase bicycle that no one rides anymore or has tires no one is going to bother replacing?

Now, there’s a recycling option for that, too.  

Roy Whaling, a heavy equipment operator at the regional landfill, was dismayed at the number of usable bicycles he’d seen thrown out as trash. At his retirement party, Whaling mentioned the problematic disposals to Stafford Supervisors Pamela Yeung and Meg Bohmke.

“The idea really started with Roy,” explained Francesca Johnson, recycling manager at the R-Board, which oversees solid waste management for both Stafford County and the City of Fredericksburg.   

Starting in October 2023, the supervisors and the R-Board partnered with Stafford Community Church to collect bikes from the landfill, repair them, and then donate them to the community.  

The joint venture has proven so successful that it was recognized recently with a 2024 Achievement Award from the National Association of Counties. The award honors innovative, effective county government programs that strengthen services for residents.  

To date, volunteers have collected and repurposed over 75 bicycles. Mark DeCourcey, the missions pastor at Stafford Community Church, says another 50 to 75 bikes are awaiting restoration at the church.  

DeCourcey’s first move was to gather a group of cycling enthusiasts, who volunteered to refurbish and repair the gently used bikes that are dropped off at the landfill.

“If you ride bicycles, you probably know how to repair them,” he said. “So we get together at the church, usually have a prayer beforehand, and then we work on the bikes. We do it together because we often are pulling parts off one bike to use on another. It’s really a great time of fellowship for us.”  

Johnson praised the church’s responsiveness and enthusiasm as a partner, describing its involvement as “integral to the success of this program.”

No sooner had the project begun than volunteers saw a steep increase in the number of bikes deposited in the designated spot, marked by a “Bicycle Recycling” sign. Some, said DeCourcey, are in excellent working order.

“I think people felt guilty about throwing a perfectly good bike,” he said. “But donating them feels better. And there is no shortage of supply for us,” DeCourcey said.  

Once the volunteers have the bikes in good working order, the children’s bikes are taken to Project Belong or the Department of Social Services, while the adult bikes go to Micah Ecumenical Ministries. Bikes that aren’t salvageable after a thorough diagnostic check are returned to the landfill.

Bikes may be dropped off at the church if the landfill isn’t accessible. DeCourcey, however, asks that people contact him first and not to leave bikes on church property without permission.)

“We just want to serve the needs of our community,” he said. “And make sustainable and healthy transportation available to kids and adults.”  

The bikes make a tangible difference in the lives of those who need a way to get around, said Meghann Cotter, executive director of Micah Ecumenical Ministries.   

“We often receive working bikes and give them to people who need them to support their transportation needs as we move them off the street. That can be getting to and from work, getting around town, going to the store, accessing appointments, etc. Not having a car is a huge barrier for a lot of people, and not everyone is capable of getting a license,” Cotter said.   

“Almost anyone, however, can ride a bike,” she added. “It goes a long way to establishing independence when people have their own wheels — even if it is just two of them.”  

Micah Ministries was able to donate this bike to a man who had been accepted into a housing program. He was concerned about getting to appointments and activities when buses aren’t running. (photo courtesy of Margie Brewer-Zambon)

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