By Bob Zoellner
Two Hillsborough County Solid Waste employees saw a fair amount of bicycles come through their facility at the Northwest Community Collection Center (NCCC) in Tampa, with metal parts getting recycled and the rest getting trashed. For Kenneth Walker of Tampa, a transfer equipment operator, and Ronald Milligan, also of Tampa, an equipment operator, there had to be a better use for these bikes, especially ones that still had life left in them.
They spoke to their managers about rescuing these bicycles from destruction. The idea went up the chain of command to the department director, who approved the idea. Now, after fixing up these bikes as needed, they are donated to Hillsborough County Children’s Services for distribution.
This is a change from the norm, as employees and users of the county’s services are not allowed to scavenge or salvage items brought for disposal, said Jason Bishop, operations superintendent at the Northwest facility.
“We’re very proud that they took the initiative,” Bishop added. “This is a win-win scenario. A little kid gets a bike and we take stuff out of the landfill. It’s definitely a win-win.”
Bicycles that are dropped off at the Northwest Community Collection Center in Tampa, the Alderman Ford Community Collection Center in Plant City, the South County Community Collection Center in Gibsonton and the Hillsborough Heights Community Collection Center in Seffner will all get the once over and turned into good, solid bikes for needy children.
Employees do the refurbishing at the NCCC, sometimes paying for parts or using items off of other bicycles. They also repair brakes, tires, tubes and pedals, as well as swapping out seats as needed.
Once ready, the bikes are stored at the Northwest facility, and eventually passed on to Children’s Services to be distributed to those in need. In the future, other departments may also be recipients of some bikes, according to Jose Patino, a media relations strategist for the county.
Because of its success, the county is looking into other items for potential rescuing and repurposing too. Those ideas are still being discussed, and any information or updates can be found at https://www.hillsboroughcounty.org/en/government/departments/solid-waste.