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How to Upcycle or Recycle Your Old Bike

April 22, 2022

We all know there’s nothing better than new bike day! But the flipside of getting a brand new bicycle is that you’ll have an old one taking up space. If you don’t plan on using your old bike as a backup, there are loads of ways to recycle or upcycle your old bike in a planet-friendly way.

If you’re a parent, you enjoy family time with your kids by upcycling your, or their, old bike. Along with going for a bike ride, creative experiments are fantastic bonding activities. All it takes is a few tools and some elbow grease to give your old bike a new life.

Read on for some upcycling ideas, as well as a list of places you can donate your bike if you want to make a difference in someone’s life.

What’s the Difference Between Recycling & Upcycling?

While recycling converts waste materials into new objects, upcycling re-purposes a used product and converts it into something “new”. The big difference between the two is that recycling breaks down the material first, and upcycling means using items in a different way.

Each option has its pros and cons, but ultimately the best option is one that you’ll carry through.

There’s not much point in leaving your old bicycle at the back of your garage for years thinking, “One day I’ll get around to upcycling it” - so if you’re not crafty or don’t have much space in your home for more furniture or decor items, it might be better to go ahead and donate or recycle it.

Why You Should Upcycle or Recycle Your Bicycle?

The transport industry contributes to over 20% of New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions and 70% of those emissions are from cars, SUVs, vans and light trucks.

Here are some of the sobering facts about New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions


It’s no secret that cycling has the power to reduce our carbon emissions and contribute to saving our planet, but it’s not all sunshine and roses.

A bicycle tyre takes on average 50 - 80 years to decompose in a landfill. While your carbon frame should last you a lifetime (you might even be able to pass it onto your kids!), aluminum frames have less longevity but are easier to recycle - provided that you take it to a recycling plant.

If you’re trying to reduce your carbon footprint, it’s not enough to simply switch out your transport for a bicycle (although that certainly helps a lot). You should also be conscious of the materials your bicycle uses, and how you can recycle or upcycle them.

DIYs Ideas for Upcycling Your Bicycle

It’s easy to find furniture, decor, and fashion items upcycled from bike parts for sale online, but you can even try upcycling yourself if you’re crafty,

Here are some of the most popular ways bicycles are upcycled:

Create a modern and minimalist wall clock by installing a clock mechanism onto an unused wheel.Add a lightbulb to a crank to make a desk lamp, or buy a pre-made one onlineAttach a basket to your bicycle and use it as a flower planter for your garden - bonus points if you spray paint it an eye-catching colour!Bike chains have been turned into jaw-dropping chandeliers by artist Carolina Fontoura. You can also make your own DIY chandelier with this guide.If you like the idea of reusing the chains but don’t have the space for a chandelier, you can turn your old bicycle chains into pieces of jewelry.There are many different ways you can upcycle bicycle parts to make a coffee table.

What to do With Your Old Bicycle

If you’re not the handy type and don’t want to upcycle your bicycle yourself, there are still loads of ways to dispose of your bicycle in an environmentally-friendly way.

Here are some organisations in New Zealand that are doing amazing things with bicycles:

ReBicycle EkeRua

ReBicycle EkeRua has provided hundreds of bicycles to people in the Wellington area who otherwise wouldn’t have access to cycling. Of the 2,000 bicycles that have been donated to them since they started the program, they’ve managed to fix up and re-home over three quarters of them.

If you want to get involved, you can donate your old bicycles (or kids’ bikes), helmets that are in good condition, locks, bike pumps or even your time through volunteering.

RAD Bikes

RAD Bikes is a non-profit community bike workshop in Christchurch that teaches people how to fix their bikes and provides a space for recycling.

You can donate your used bike, bike parts, or your time by volunteering. If you want to get involved in their community projects, you can also join in for drop in sessions, club nights, mechanics courses, women’s workshops or afterschool programs.

Bike Recycling Project

The Bike Recycling Project provides a sustainable initiative that maximises the lifespan of bicycles and removes barriers to cycling for those less fortunate. They accept bicycles of all shapes and sizes, and ask that bicycles are in a repairable condition so that they can refurbish them.

You can donate your bicycle by dropping your unwanted bike at H2O Xtream in Upper Hutt during business hours, or email Activation at to organise collection of your bicycle.

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