How to Recycle or Donate Bicycles

In most cases, recycling a bicycle is as simple as contacting your local donation centers, secondhand shops, or scrap metal recyclers.

By Maryruth Belsey Priebe

Fact checked by Sander Tamm

How to Recycle Bicycles
How to Recycle Bicycles / Sander Tamm / Ecolife

An Overview On Recycling or Donating Bicycles

At Ecolife, we love bicycles! They’re a low-cost, low-carbon means of getting around, they provide a great form of exercise, and they require much less infrastructure compared to fuel-powered vehicles. Yet there comes a time in every bicycle’s life when retirement is the only option. Whether it’s simply unused or in poor condition – the frame is bent or the tires are flat – old bicycles that just collect dust aren’t really useful to anyone. But with our bicycle recycling tips, we’ll help you find a new use for your bicycle, whether it’s still usable or not.

Give your bike a second life by looking into bicycle donation options. If your bike is still in working order, this is a great option as it helps put the materials used to make your bicycle into use again and prevents waste from ending up in the landfill.

  • Bicycle donations: Many nonprofit organizations will take your usable bicycles and either give them to their clients or sell them to support their operational efforts.
  • Bicycle part donations: When your bicycle is no longer functional, you may be able to donate some or all of the parts. Some charities have work programs that provide jobs through bicycle repair shops while others will use the parts to repair their bicycle fleets.
  • Bike accessories: Don’t forget to donate your bike accessories, too, such as helmets, tools, shoes, reflectors, tires, pumps, and locks. These are all useful for bike charities and thrift stores alike.

Often if you can’t find a charity that specifically accepts bikes, you will be able to donate your old bike or the parts to a local bike shop. Some even fix up old bikes and donate them to other charities on your behalf. And if you ask, many will give you a charitable receipt for your donation.

Recycle your bicycle through a swap

If you’re looking to upgrade or downgrade your bike, then a bike swap might be a great option for you. If you can’t find an event near you, either do a search online for “bike swap” in your community or start one for yourself!

Sell your secondhand bicycle for cash

Strapped for cash? Then consider selling your old bike for money. Here are a few other ideas for selling your bicycle:

  • Hold a garage sale and get rid of all sorts of household stuff
  • Advertise your bike for sale in the local newspaper or community newsletter
  • Post a notice in local coffee shops and laundry mats
  • Consign your bike through a local bike shop

Bicycle recycling options

If you’ve explored all other options for recycling your bike, then recycling it is the next best thing. Here’s how to recycle a bicycle:

  • Dismantle it: The first step is to take your bike apart so that you can recycle the various components separately. That means removing the tires and other non-metal parts so that you’re left with just the metal frame and a pile of other materials.
  • Scrap metal recycling: Your frame is likely made of an alloy metal which can be easily recycled at a local scrap metal recycling center or even at your drop-off recycling center.
  • Tire recycling programs: Your rubber bike tires can often be recycled through regular tire recycling programs, including store recycling programs such as those at Costco.
  • Curbside recycling: Metal parts, including the frame, can often be picked up directly from your home with your other household waste. Call your local recycling authority to find out for sure.
  • Landfill recycling program: Sometimes your local landfill will have a bike collection service. Call your local solid waste management office to find out if you can recycle your bike through this type of program.