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A real circular economy

Earlier this year Oxfordshire County Council won a National Recycling Award for Local Authority Innovation. Andrea Lockerbie looks at why

Oxfordshire County Council’s Re-Cycle scheme, which gives bicycles a new lease of life, was the scheme that won over the judges. They praised it for being “a local authority that is putting the circular economy in plain English, bringing it to life and shifting the mindset”.

The scheme operates in partnership with the council’s Early Intervention Service – a countywide service for vulnerable children, young people and families.

Bicycles taken to the Alkerton Household Waste Recycling Centre (HWRC) are collected and taken back to The New Futures Hub, where the Early Intervention Service operates in Banbury. There, young people learn from qualified bike mechanics how to strip the bicycles down and repair or re-build them as needed, transforming them back into roadworthy vehicles for the repairer to use.

As well as breathing new life into items that had been discarded, the scheme offers young people the chance to learn a practical skill. This in turn gives them confidence, helps self-esteem and engages them in a positive activity. Within the space of a year, the scheme was responsible for over 100 bicycles being reused, which is nearly two tonnes of material.

“It’s fantastic to have won this award and received recognition for the project as it has so many environmental and social benefits.”

County Councillor David Nimmo Smith, Cabinet member for the environment

One young person attending the Hub had repaired six bicycles for friends and family and gone from being unemployed to starting an apprenticeship, none of which would have been possible without the supply of bikes from the HWRC. Local press coverage of the initiative boosted donations of old and unwanted bikes, often very good quality and ripe for reuse rather than recycling.

A key to the scheme’s success has been the close working between Oxfordshire County Council’s waste management offices, the Hub workers, contractor staff at the HWRC and HR staff at the county council who have helped develop apprenticeships across the county. This close working has ensured that the HWRC staff have a clear understanding of the type and quality of bicycle required by the scheme, so that these are prevented from going into the metal recycling skip.

An apprenticeship is being set up, which hopes to be self-funded by the sale of repaired bicycles to the local community.

Following the success in Banbury, the council has set up similar schemes at some of its other HWRCs in the county, in partnership with third sector organisations as well as other Early Intervention Hubs.  Across all the HWRCs in the county, over 700 bikes were estimated to have been reused rather than recycled or landfilled in a year.

As well as helping Oxfordshire boost its reuse rates and operate higher up the waste hierarchy, it has also supported the objectives of its Early Intervention Service.


Category Finalists:

  • Brighton & Hove City Council
  • Cheshire East and Cheshire West & Chester Council
  • Dudley MBC
  • London Borough of Lewisham
  • Merseyside Recycling and Waste Authority
  • Rhondda Cynon Taff Council
  • Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council
  • TOR2 in partnership with Bywaters

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