By Thomas Denning 

    The topic of waste diversion and closed-loop recycling systems is at the forefront of conversation as industry and consumers look to reduce their impact on the planet. I sat down with Dominik Zylka, the general manager of the Community Bike Hub in Melbourne, to discuss some of the challenges they face in recycling bike tyre waste. 

    Dominik firmly believes that the perception of waste needs to change. Needing to be viewed as a resource rather than a burden. “With innovative practices, we can use waste to educate people, to make them question the world and to come up with creative solutions to challenges. Used bikes allow us to make a difference, but we still have a way to go.”

    With over 1.7 million bicycles purchased in 2020 by Australians and approximately 250,000 bikes discarded per year based on global averages, the Community Bike Hub has had its work cut out. Since its establishment in 2019, the Community Bike Hub has successfully saved over 1,300 bikes from landfill and repaired or serviced over 2,400 bikes. 

    With a strong focus on moving towards a circular economy, bikes are also repurposed for resale on-site for the public and donated to those who are in need. 

    Not-for-profit social enterprise groups have played a vital role in the push towards ensuring waste and recycling can be diverted from landfill. Often needing to pressure Government bodies and industry to help develop innovative solutions to streamline waste and recycling outputs. However, rising costs, inefficient recycling processes and a lack of funding can severely inhibit the ability of social enterprise groups in this space. 

    While the Community Bike Hub has been able to repurpose many elements of the bikes that have been discarded, the tyres remain a troublesome sticking point. The size and construction of bike tyres make the process of recycling much more difficult, resulting in a costly process that is not as accessible when compared to recycling steel and alloy. In 2022 the Community Bike Hub saved over 1520 tyres from landfill. However, not all tyres are suitable for repurposing due to the tyre’s degradation and the high recycling costs. 

    I asked Dominik how the wider community and government could help support their program and improve the process of recycling tyres. “Financial support to allow us to recycle the tyres would enable us to continue our work in saving as many bikes as possible from landfill. We are reimbursed for steel and alloy recycling, but rubber is a costly exercise, and it should not be the factor that limits us from achieving better outcomes for the environment.” Further support will enable the Community Bike Hub to develop the thriving circular economy the enterprise has already established. 

    Dominik and the team are passionate about education and working with the community to resolve these roadblocks. Innovative ideas on how to reuse bike tyres from the community are always welcome. You can find the team from CBH at the upcoming Yarraville festival, or you can visit the shop located next to Lickety Split at 38/40 Moreland St, Footscray, VIC 3011.

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