Scrap bikes given new life through ACRE and Helsinki Metropolitan Area Reuse Centre collaboration

This winter, a scrap bike collection was conducted in collaboration with Helsinki Metropolitan Area Reuse Centre Ltd. Several hundred bicycles were gathered from the Aalto University campus.

The Otaniemi area of Espoo, where Aalto University is located, has one of the highest cycling rates in Finland, and Aalto University is keen to encourage environmentally friendly travel to campus, including investment in cycling infrastructure. Due to the high turnover of residents in the campus area, a large number of bicycles end up abandoned in bike racks and basements. These forgotten bikes hinder the maintenance of outdoor areas, such as snow and sand removal, and affect the cleanliness of these areas. In addition, the abandoned bikes take up space needed for active cycling.

To solve the problem, the Aalto University campus has organised scrap bike collections every 2-3 years. Most of the abandoned bikes are pure scrap metal, but many are fully usable after minor maintenance. The last collection took place in autumn 2023, and Helsinki Metropolitan Area Reuse Centre Ltd. was chosen as the partner for bicycle recycling.

Loading the bikes to the truck
Several hundred scrap bicycles were collected from the campus. The bikes were sent to the Recuse Centre for refurbishment. Photo: Milla Uusitalo / ACRE

"In the spirit of sustainable development, we want to give all abandoned bikes a new life, so it was logical to organize the collection in cooperation with recycling centre,” says Head of Property and Campus Services Jukka Salmisto from Aalto University Properties (ACRE).

“We at the recycling centre are happy about the collaboration with Aalto University. A recycled bike is an excellent environmental act, both when donated and when purchased. When a bicycle stays in use, it saves an average of 700 kilograms of solid natural resources per bike,” says Kimmo Kari, an expert in electrical and bicycle workshops at the Helsinki Metropolitan Area Reuse Centre. Refurbished bikes are sold in the Reuse Centre's largest stores and in its online store.

"We go through all the bicycles donated to us. We service and repair the usable ones. If a bike is no longer repairable, we salvage all parts suitable for spare parts. So, everything usable is recycled. The remaining scrap metal is forwarded from us to metal recycling,” Kari continues.

Helsinki Metropolitan Area Reuse Centre has its own bicycle workshop in Malminkartano, Helsinki. There, over 3,000 bicycles are serviced and repaired each year. The bicycle workshop annually provides jobs for 15-20 job seekers who have been looking for work for a long time, so a bicycle donation is always an employment act as well. Annually, the recycling of bicycles by the Reuse Centre results in a natural resource saving of over two million kilograms.

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