Thursday, 08 January 2015 13:57

Kent 'Borstal' prisoners salvage 500 bikes from recycling centres for resale

A partnership in Kent between a young male offenders prison, a waste management company, and a social enterprise shop is celebrating the success of its "Re-love a bike" scheme which has seen more than 500 old bikes salvaged since June of last year and restored by prisoners for resale. The partners involved are FCC Environment, HMP Rochester (formerly known as Borstal Prison) and the Abacus Furniture Project.

Rochester  prison bike recycle1 copyAbacus, part of the Social Enterprise strand of West Kent Extra, the charitable arm of West Kent Housing Association, collects bikes from the three household waste recycling centres (HWRCs) operated by FCC Environment on behalf of Medway Council at Capstone, Cuxton and Gillingham.

The bikes retrieved by FCC Environment from the waste deposited at the sites are collected and transported by Abacus to HMP Rochester for refurbishment by prisoners or stripped for parts. Up to ten prisoners work with a trained officer in a purpose-built workshop to restore the bikes which are safety checked and then sold at Abacus' three shops in Medway, Maidstone and Sevenoaks. Nearly 100 bikes have been sold by Abacus so far.

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

In addition, FCC Environment has developed a complete recycling package for HMP Rochester to handle the prison's waste, helping it to achieve zero waste to landfill by 2015. Prisoners now help to sort the recyclable waste that had previously gone to landfill in a new segregated waste recycling centre within HMP Rochester, saving the prison landfill tax. The sorted recyclables and any residual waste are then taken to FCC Environment's integrated waste management facility in Allington, Kent.

To celebrate the success of the partnership, FCC Environment's Chief Executive Officer Paul Taylor visited Medway last month to see the "Re-love a bike" scheme in action. Mr Taylor visited the HWRC in Cuxton to see how the bikes are collected, received a tour of HMP Rochester's waste management facility and bike workshop where he even had the opportunity to work on a bike as well as seeing where the bikes are sold at an Abacus shop in Rochester.

Rochester prison bike recycle2 5 copyMr Taylor commented: "The bike reuse scheme is a great project; it saves bikes from landfill, 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. I really enjoyed seeing how the project works and would like to thank everyone involved for making the bike reuse scheme such a success."

HMP Rochester's waste manager, Nathan De-Thabrew, said: "FCC Environment has not only enabled us to overhaul our waste management system, but is helping prisoners to gain new skills through the bike restoration programme. This is absolutely key to helping them find a job on release, which we know is one of the biggest factors in preventing people from reoffending."

Darren Conroy, prison officer at HMPS, added: "The bicycle repair workshop gives offenders so much more than time out of their cell; they say refurbishing old, often rusty bikes gives them a sense of job satisfaction, especially as the bikes are sold through a charity. It is a popular and highly attended workshop which even has a waiting list and will soon offer a City & Guilds qualification in Bicycle Maintenance."

HMP Rochester
Abacus Furniture Project
FCC Environment