Garbage & Recycling Collection by Bike

Inventive and dedicated people have found many ways to push the boundaries of utility cycling. A number of industrious folks have created businesses that provide trash and recycling collection by bike. While this service is traditionally dependent on large capacity trucks, there are more than a few people that have embraced the idea of combining human-powered pickup and waste conversation as an alternative to the norm.

Image Credit: Pedal People
Image Credit: Pedal People
In Northampton, Massachusetts, Pedal People have taken utility cycling a step beyond the more common grocery delivery and pedicab services (although they offer those services, too). It is definitely not sunny and 70 degrees in Northampton all year long, and this worker-owned human-powered delivery and hauling service works year round performing tasks often left to gasoline-powered machines. Using bikes equipped with large sturdy trailers, they will haul away your trash, recycling and compost (and any combination thereof) for a fee that is dependent upon the frequency and volume of the pickup, with a maximum of three 18-gallon containers per pick pickup. Pedal People’s number of pickups per year has been growing steadily since they begin riding routes in 2002, and they now average well over 10,000 collections each year.
Image Credit: Cowichan Recyclists
Image Credit: Cowichan Recyclists
While not every city, town or neighborhood has its own local recycling service by bicycle, these organizations have appeared in a number of places in a variety of settings. In Ames, Iowa, Bikes At Work began collecting recyclables from homes in 1993, and by 1998, the operation had residential customers, Iowa State University residence hall contracts and 26 employees. Eureka Recycling in St. Paul, Minnesota launched a compostable waste pickup by bike pilot program in August 2010. In the program that is currently being tested by the non-profit Eureka Recycling, all of the participating homes received educational material, bins and compostable bags; program leaders need to gauge the communitys willingness to be active participants in waste management but understand that education is a key component of a successful launch.
Image Credit: Pedal People
Image Credit: Pedal People
Why is garbage and recycling collection by bike an increasingly important venture? Trash pickup, particularly in residential neighborhoods, involves the constant idling of large, pollution-emitting trucks, which burn fuel and produce carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, volatile organic compounds and a variety of other lovely substances while their engines run between homes. Garbage trucks also create more strain on our roadways and contribute to noise pollution in our neighborhoods. From an economic standpoint, making the decision as an individual to finance trash collection by bike, particularly in communities where trash services are included in local taxes, requires a personal commitment to improving the environment through utility cycling. However, in the long run, using bicycles for neighborhood collection to move trash and recycling to a central pickup for automobiles will reduce stress on our roads (which we fund through taxes), will save us money on expenditures such as fuel, trucks, and labor (which we fund through taxes), and will decrease toxins entering the air that cause health issues in our population. All of these savings can make room in local budgets for human-powered solutions that ultimately reward everyone involved through a sustainable, healthy community service.


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2 thoughts on “Garbage & Recycling Collection by Bike”

  1. Dave says:

    I live in a suburb of Houston and have been thinking about doing curbside recycling pick up by bike for a couple of months now. The timing of this post could not be more perfect. Does anyone besides Pedal People have experience with this? I was looking at the rates that they charge and they are extremely high compared to the rates in my town. Waste Management, who does trash pickup in my particular area, charges $5/mo for recycling pickup. I can’t charge anything more than $10/mo, I think, without people thinking its just not worth it.

    I could viably compete with them if I could do trash pick up too, but the closest drop-off is at a landfill that is 8 miles away across two very busy highways.

    I am trying to explore my options, as I really want to start a bicycle-based business. I have looked into grocery delivery, but there isn’t very good money in it.

    At any rate, thanks for the inspiring article. We need more people like Pedal People!

  2. […] trash collection and recycle-by-bike enterprises are also up-and-coming in the continental U.S. and are highlighted on our sister blog, Utility […]

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