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Creator: Magnus Rysjö

One bicycle can mean so much

Taking your rubbish to the recycling centre might seem obvious: however, for those without a car or who are housebound, it can be difficult to get there. In Borås, RISE has studied how the problem of fly tipping in the district of Norrby can be reduced – with the help of a bicycle.

If how we manage bulky waste says anything about our society, it is that access to a car is still a necessity. You will also need to be strong enough to carry the junk in question and be able to leave home between 10 am and 6 pm.

However, this is not how things look in reality. Norrby in Borås is a district with waste management problems.

“What do you do when you see that there’s a problem? The normal reaction is to go out and inform the residents of what they should be doing when the reality is that they can’t do the right thing. If, for example, you are a single parent with several children and no network in your neighbourhood, disposing of a wardrobe becomes something of a problem. If you are elderly, it is not so easy to carry a broken television and so on. People then do the best they can,” says Julia Jonasson.

The solution is often to leave rubbish in stairwells or courtyards. This is not only an eyesore, it is also a major fire risk that requires the landlord to take immediate action to remove it.

A woman cycling on the TJAFS-bike
Photo: RISE
The four-wheeled bicycle equipped with a trailer collects the resident’s waste and transports it to the nearest recycling centre.

The Recycling Cycle – a possible solution

When Borås Municipality collaborated with RISE to study the problem, a person-centred solution was posited. This became the basis for the TJAFS Project.

A norm-critical pilot study was implemented as a first step towards identifying a possible solution.

“We consulted widely and openly. Ideas such as adding more recycling centres and similar investments were mooted. The idea of the bicycle was a fairly late addition.

The project’s chosen solution was a four-wheel bicycle equipped with a trailer to collect resident’s waste and transport it to the nearest recycling centre. The advantages are many; a bicycle is able to gain access everywhere, even in the middle of housing estates, and the human element of a bicycle coming to collect rubbish rather than a van is important in creating personal contact. The idea was to make the service visible and signal, ‘Hey, here we are. What can we do to help?’.

Residents of Norrby had the choice of booking a collection by telephone, online or by asking directly on site. The service was free of charge, among other things to encourage people to view it as a service and to make it affordable to anyone wishing to use it. Julia Jonasson and her colleague Lisa Andersson were among those operating the recycling cycle. Although this was not initially part of the plan, irrespective of who was recruited, Lisa and Julia would have been required to follow along in order to evaluate the project.

“This proved valuable; being able to meet people directly and see the benefits of the recycling cycle and our labours. Throughout the project, we have also been careful to invite our partners to join us on site. This is something that has probably contributed to the positive reaction. It’s one thing to read that things are going well – it’s something entirely different to see a happy family whose attic has been emptied for the first time in years.”

The benefits of putting people at the centre

And this positivity persists. Borås Municipality is planning to continue operating the recycling cycle in some form. In addition to the physical bicycle, the project also produced comprehensive documentation of the lessons learned.

“One thing that we haven’t measured within the framework of the project is the value to the neighbourhood of receiving a visit from the authorities that isn’t the police or social services. Rather it is someone who asks, ‘how can we help you?’.

In addition to the direct effect of making it easier for residents to get rid of their rubbish, another positive side-effect became apparent.

“When we discussed the bicycle idea with people with disabilities, their response was that such a service would be fantastic in that they could then avoid using their dial-a-ride journeys for getting rid of rubbish; they could use them for something better.”

During the project, it has become clear that rubbish makes a difference and that a system is needed that gives due consideration to target groups without the ability to easily visit recycling centres. Recycling centres began to appear in the 1960s, when the car was still viewed as the future. Although today’s society encourages a lower level of car ownership, in many ways the waste management system remains unchanged.

“Seeing this has proved valuable. And the method for looking at how the system can be changed to better suit people – that is something that can benefit us in almost all of our projects,” says Julia Jonasson.

Published: 2018-10-08