What drew me into bicycle powered compost collection was its simplicity. I also really like riding my bicycle! A bike, a trailer, some buckets, and some bins. Those were the big ticket items to start this business. It also helps that Richmond isn’t too big (roughly 6 x 8 miles) that I could do this by bicycle.
Bicycles also have hidden cost savings that are hard to pass up (when compared to doing this with a bigger truck): (the list below is mostly taken from Pedal People who made this point years ago)
- Clean air: Diesel exhaust particles can cause or exacerbate many health problems, including asthma and other respiratory illnesses, and have been linked to cancer and premature death .
- No pavement damage: Trucks cause nearly all of the load-related damage to pavement. A vehicle weighing five tons causes over 100 times as much damage as a vehicle weighing one ton . Getting trucks off the residential streets means the pavement lasts longer, saving the city and its taxpayers money.
- Quiet: There’s no engine or compactor noise with bicycles.
- Local economy: A greater percentage of the money you pay for this type of service stays in the local economy instead of getting spent on foreign oil.
- Less waste: Trucks are most efficient at transporting large quantities long distances. Picking up residential compost/recycling/trash requires many stops and starts. Every time a truck accelerates from a stop, it emits soot and smog-forming pollution.
- Community Building: On my bike I get to interact with lots of different people that I wouldn’t get to while driving a vehicle. This can be a better way to build bonds with various people in different neighborhoods.
- Health Care: Getting exercise increases my overall health and can result in lower health care costs on my part.
With all this in mind I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to operate this business by using a bicycle as my main mode of transportation. Are there times that I am unable to use my bike to collect food scraps? Yes it has happened 2 or 3 times in the 2+ years I have been doing this. Every other time I am out on my bike making my rounds.
It’s also worth pointing out the cost effectiveness of using a bicycle for transportation. The money spent on maintenance is slim compared to a vehicle and zero money is spent on gas. Even using an electric assist bicycle is more cost effective than a vehicle though the up front price is higher than for a regular bicycle. The electricity used to recharge the battery is very minimal, so money spent on “refueling” is still going to be way less than money spend on refueling a vehicle.
I have had to get used to people giving me weird looks while I am out doing my runs. I also know there are pictures of me out there somewhere on the internet making fun of me. It is probably weird for a lot of people to see someone riding a bicycle around town in not-so-great weather collecting what is essentially “garbage” to them. I hope that when people see me out making my pick ups that they realize that things don’t have to be done a certain way just because it has been for a long time. We can look at how we do the things we do and see if there is a better way.