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NRAs 2015 Best Partnership with the Public Sector: FCC Environment, HMP Rochester and Abacus Furniture Project

Environment, HMP Rochester and Abacus Furniture Project to salvage old bikes and have them restored by prisoners for resale at Abacus shops.

Abacus, part of the social enterprise strand of West Kent Extra – the charitable arm of West Kent Housing Association – collects bikes from three household waste recycling centres operated by FCC Environment on behalf of Medway Council at Capstone, Cuxton and Gillingham.

The bikes are transported by Abacus to HMP Rochester for refurbishment by prisoners. Roughly 10% of the bikes sent to the prison are stripped for parts to reduce costs. Up to 10 prisoners work on restoration with a trained officer in a purpose-built workshop, then the bikes are safety checked and sold at Abacus’ three shops.

Medway’s ‘Re-Love A Bike’ scheme

As well as restoring the bikes, prisoners who qualify for day release will be able to work at Abacus Furniture Project stores to help to sell the bikes and gain valuable work experience. Abacus recycles unwanted, second-hand furniture and household items, saving them from landfill, and sells them to people in need at low prices.

“All the organisations were united in the desire to put reuse and social impact at the heart of the programme. The benefit to the partners comes in the form of knowing that they are doing something that matters. And they are now working together on another project using the same framework”

Judges’ comment        

More than 500 old bikes have been salvaged since the ‘Re-Love A Bike’ scheme started in June 2014, and around 100 bikes have been sold by Abacus so far at an average price of £30. The partnership adheres to the waste hierarchy because the bikes are prepared for reuse instead of being recycled.

As FCC Environment chief executive Paul Taylor explains: “The bike reuse scheme is a great project; it salvages bikes, enables prisoners to develop skills which will help them gain employment when they leave prison and local people can buy bikes at good prices which in turn benefits Abacus.”

Keeley Atkinson, social enterprise manager at West Kent Extra, adds: “This is an exciting collaboration between the public sector, a private company and the charitable sector and it is helping low-income families at the same time. This is three visions coming together for the good of the community, the environment and offenders who learn valuable skills which may assist them in securing long-term employment on release.”   


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