The long road to (re)cycling old Welsh Cycling gear
The volume of clothing we send to landfill each year is staggering, with far-reaching implications. So, finding a way to breathe new life into unwanted cycling gear by transporting it from Wales to Africa was a challenge we couldn’t resist.
The environmental, financial and human cost
Around 300,000 tonnes of clothing ends up in our bins each year, with 20% (£140 million worth) going to landfill and the rest incinerated.
With the UK thought to buy more new clothes than any other European country, these are shocking statistics on their own, but cheap throwaway fashion has other implications beyond wastefulness; excessive carbon, water consumption, plastics emissions. If clothes stayed in use just nine months longer (extending their average life to around three years), this would reduce their carbon, water and waste footprints by 20-30%.
Recycling cycling gear
So, when the opportunity came along to do our bit and help find a new home for 200 kilos of old cycling kit, I couldn’t resist being involved.
Back in June, some of the Cisco team – along with our colleagues at Dimension Data – had the privilege of supporting our very own James MacDonald in an indoor cycling world record attempt at the Geraint Thomas National Velodrome Of Wales. A nasty fall forced James to abandon his mission on that occasion, but his efforts represented a feat of physical endurance most of us can’t even comprehend.
Click here to find out more about James and the build-up to his big day – or read about the psychology behind his feats of endurance. And for information on the technology Dimension Data and Cisco developed and installed to support James (and which remains in place at the velodrome for the benefit of other cyclists), listen to our podcast.
It was through a chance conversation with Steve Codd at Welsh Government during the world record attempt that I learned Welsh Cycling had unwanted, out-of-date cycling gear that was nevertheless in good condition. What they did want was for it to go to a good cause rather than being destroyed. We saw it as our duty to give it a new home and a second chance.
How cycling changes people’s lives
One of the charities Dimension Data supports is Qhubeka, an amazing organisation that distributes bikes across Africa, giving people in remote locations the freedom of mobility and independence. These bikes are built from scratch in South Africa by a wholly owned subsidiary of Qhubeka, contributing to job creation, skill development and stimulating the local economy. It’s no exaggeration to say that bikes can change lives, helping recipients get to school, work, medical appointments, collect essential supplies, etc.
This seemed the perfect destination. All we needed to do next was work out how to get everything from Newport in South Wales to Heathrow and then on a flight to Africa, where the Qhubeka team could work their magic.
Chain of events
It all sounds quite simple, but the logistics of packing and transporting 200 kilos of kit would be neither easy nor cheap. Luckily with the great collaboration and elbow power of Welsh Cycling, we got the job done. And Scot Gardner, head of our UKI business, agreed for Cisco to lead the initiative. He understood what we wanted to achieve and why it was so important.
Some might argue that the journey from Newport to Heathrow to Africa is a carbon consumption exercise. However, for remote communities with limited transport options, aiding the mobility (in one of the most environmentally friendly ways possible), of people who will gain genuine value from them must be worth the effort.
A local initiative – a global journey
The result has been an incredible team effort between the public sector, a national government, commercial companies and charities, and more people than I have space to mention. Here are just a few:
- Welsh Cycling: Michael Stokoe and Carys Tucker
- Welsh Government: Steve Codd
- Qhubeka: James Louter and Matt Fendick
- Dimension Data: Ceri McCall
- Geraint Thomas National Velodrome Of Wales: Steve Ward
And of course, our own Scot Gardner, who gave the green light to fund this venture.
It’s fantastic to think something destined for landfill will be used to help make other, less fortunate people’s lives easier. Just as our technology builds bridges for our customers, helping them address their business challenges, we’re just as committed to building a ‘bridge to possible’ for communities across the world. I hope on this occasion, we’ve helped build a bridge to greater personal freedom and control.
And it may be a pipe dream, but when I recall James’ world record attempt and the dedication of the cycling gear’s previous wearers, I can’t help wondering whether our actions might even inspire a young recipient or two to their own future cycling glory – if you can imagine it, we will build the bridge to get you there – #BeTheBridge.