The Association of Landscape Contractors of Ireland (ALCI) has won the 2011 Envirocom Award for its role in 'Engaging Communities in an Environmental Project' to avert a national waste problem, with its 'Bikes 4 Africa' project.
Until recently, there appeared no easy, costless or safe way to dispose of an unwanted bikes other than landfills. The second-hand bike market collapsed when the last government introduced the tax rebate incentive to purchase a new bike, resulting in 90,000 new bikes now on Irish roads. The consequence of this well-meaning initiative, however, has created an unexpected problem in a flood of seldom used bikes being dumped or sent to refuge tips.
Patrick Sheridan of Sheridan Landscaping, Dunshaughlin, decided to lead and trial a new more environmental and socially acceptable solution with his customers and local communities in Meath.
Patrick and the ALCI decided to collaborate with Bernard Fitzpatrick, the founder and patron of the charity Bikes 4 Africa. The goal was set to collect and ship used bikes to remote and disadvantaged villages in South Africa. Sheridan Landscaping and other ALCI members organised bike collections throughout Ireland. There is now a steady supply of used bikes available for shipping to remote African communities.
Two containers of used bikes delivered within the last nine months has helped create a cottage industry that now trains and employs villagers to refurbish and sell repaired bikes to their neighbours for a modest return. Over 600 adults and children now cycle to school, work and visit neighbours in other towns and villages.
Turning an environmental problem into a social and economic solution would not have been possible without the generous support received from sponsors like Chain Reaction Cycles NI, Sheridan Landscaping and other ALCI landscape contractors and friends of the Bikes 4 Africa project.
The second container of 400 used bikes left Dublin for Cape Town on 20th June. Sheridan Landscaping collected 270 bikes in County Meath and provided its companies facilities to collect, store and transport collected bikes to the dispatch depot in Dublin. Appreciation was expressed to Patrick, his staff and customers for volunteering their personal time and interest in ensuring the smooth, costless and timely outcome.
Children in Africa are leaning new skills repairing and restoring the old bikes to almost new to enable them to cycle to school in place of walking 15km each way per day.