The Chainlink

Dear Friends,

Every once in a while we have have load of aluminum cans, brass, copper and iron/steel that we bring to General Iron Industries as recycling scrap.  You've seen the pick up trucks with old file cabinets, exercise bikes and not-so-great bicycles (Roadmasters, Murrays, etc.). Last time we were there, someone brought in as scrap a good looking bicycle, a crew member even tested the brake handles, and spun the wheels - it was essentially brand new.  But once it was weighed in, there was no going back to a life on the road. (That's their rules...).  Other men standing in line with their carts of sheet metal and old plumbing, also saw that the bike was good - too far away to distinguish the maker or model.  One of the crew mentioned that recently they had five new bikes brought in - still with their price tags on them.  

Can something be done to figure out who is scraping perfectly good (or new) bikes? If it is a store, they could get a tax donation if donated to Working Bikes.  The folks bringing in metal as scrap are only getting .05 a pound for scrap steel.  Since the bicycles were not separated for their components (brass, steel, aluminum, rubber tires) they were not being priced at the best scrap/recycling level. 

I know several older men that collect pallets and metals with shopping carts and they have asked me about finding a bike for them.  They sell their pallets then take the bus home - a bicycle would really liberate them.  

Apparently, one can buy a bicycle (or parts) from the men in the pickup trucks, as long as it has not be weighed in/sorted by the GII crew.  As a special note - everyone, EVERYONE is very polite and very hard working.  

Hoping to change the world - one bicycke at a time.

Nancy L. Fagin

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Might be stolen bikes.

No I don't think so.  The people collecting scrap metal are trying to make a living and not get in trouble with the law.  They are usually middle aged men with trucks (and licenses); the GII keeps everyone registered and on file.  They do not, as an example, buy railroad equipment (switches).  There is the story about a yard buying a stolen school bus, but a school bus wouldn't fit on this place's scale.  A 25lb steel bicycle would only get you $1.25 = hardly worth stealing and selling as scrap.  They are cleaning out basements, construction sites - old aluminum sliding, old heating systems, etc.  GII is at 1909 N. Clifton (pass Binny's back side, across the river from Home Depot).  If you go the behind the shops on North Avenue, east of the river, you'd be amazed that there is a whole different social and economic world.  


Out  in the suburbs, it isn't unusual to see a bike set out on the curb on trash collection day. The scrappers happily toss them in the back of the truck. Rideable bikes usually wind up becoming vehicles for their kids or neighbours whilst others do go to scrap.

 On a couple of occasions, i have beaten the scrappers to the bike or bike parts and one particularly nice bike became my daughter's bike after i replaced the rusty chain and tuned it up. Others were donated to folks who needed them.

i find it disturbing that usable bikes (and other perfectly good items such as furniture, household items, clothes, etc.,) get put out for disposal rather than donated to Goodwill or other non-profit charities. Rather than putting such things into the waste stream, why don't more people simply pick up their 'phones and find a charity to accept them?

Many thanks for your note.  We are in a warehouse building and the amount of tossed clothing, electronics, dishes, etc. is heart breaking.  Some things we pull (shoes!!) and bring to Salvation Army or The Ark.  Could probably make a living pulling, cleaning and reselling huge bags of clothing and furniture. (Almost at that point :-) )  My husband rides a bike we bought from a scraper; apparently a shop didn't want to be bothered finding new wheels, new tires, new cables - but for 5.00 the scraper was very happy and my husband is happy. 

In the warehouse, families are confronting a relatives' collected possesions - what to do with grandma's or uncle's size 12 shoes? Funky dishes and odd t-shirts (Bowling Champion 1996). I think some families are overwhelmed with the work involved and take the easy way out.

Some stuff is retail/wholesale storage - hundreds of plastic bowling, wrestling trophies, t-shirts from a church funded run (prestine), recent find was boxes of athletic/trainer medical tapes - some I've already donated to PAWS.  Again, it takes some effort to pick and sort.  

I plan to write to GII and Working Bikes to see if something can be arranged to salvage some bicycles.  Can't hurt to try.



We very much appreicate your concern about functional bicycles and "could-be" functional bicycles being treated as scrap rather than the valuable resource which they are. Our organization was founded with very much the same concern which you hold. We no longer pay money for bicycles (all bicycles are donated, it removes some of the concern regarding theft/misappropriation), but I would love to talk to you about how we can best recycle these bikes at any time. Please email me at paul(at)


I don't believe 'scrappers' steal bikes, but I think they may be acquiring the discarded 'hot bikes' in alleys that don't sell fast enough to keep the bike thieves happy. Did the new-looking bikes with price tags come from Swap-O-Rama?

I don't know - one of the crew member/scale guys mentioned the five bikes with tags - but with the sound of the machinery, folk lifts, and batteries and metal being tossed about, that was all he was able to shout.  He had ear plugs, I did not.  I only saw the one bike.  


Nancy, thanks for this post.

Out of curiosity, can anyone take old metal scrap to drop off at GII, or is there a minimum amount of stuff you need to have for them to let you in?

Any amount is ok - you do have to register at the desk (just to the north and up a flight of stairs and show an id).  You are then given a number on a big plasticized sheet (it doesn't fit into a wallet). Bring that with you every time and show it to the weight crew.  It doesn't matter if its a garbage bag full of flatten aluminum cans or a box of old copper fittings or even a load of potato-chipped bike wheels.  It is best to have the different metals separated and it is also a matter of taking the time to do it.  Once you get a receipt from the weight crew you go back up the stairs to the office and show them the receipt and your number and you get a bar code to scan at a machine and viola - your money!

We then go to Stanley's and buy fruits and vegetables :-)


Sounds fun! :)

Where do you accumulate the recyclables? Is it worth it for typical household accumulation, or only if you run some sort of business that generates this type of waste?

We are in a warehouse building after closing our bookstore in 2013.  Folk clean out their units and toss a terrible amount of things - from bed frames, clothing (and more clothing), shoes, old video tapes, cd, buckets of paint...grandma's old china.  Sometimes wedding presents that were never used (many thanks for whom ever tossed the Braun juicer - use it everyday).  Some stuff is plain old dead - 1980s toaster ovens, but then we cut the cords and they are about .65 a lb.  Not every warehouse storage place has a dumpster and if they do, you must be a tenant and have access to the gates.  

We even pick up pallets - so much for our college educations.


Ron (PhD)

I have volunteered at Working Bikes and we would get bikes in just about any condition.  Some were ridable coming in the door while others had a few salvageable parts and were essentially scrap metal.  The key is making it easy to donate.  I got our condo association to conduct donation pickups every six months.  It works great and keeps our bike room clear.  With a little thought there might be a way to stage a donate a bike event for those in different situations.  One man's junk is another's treasure so just collecting them in an open access area would create a problem.


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