How to Recycle Your Bike: A Step-by-Step Guide

Riding a bicycle is not only a great form of exercise, but also an environmentally friendly way to get around. However, there comes a time when your trusty bicycle reaches the end of its lifespan and you need to say goodbye. But don’t send your bike straight to the landfill – recycle it instead!

Recycling your bike keeps useful materials out of landfills and reduces the need for new resources. Steel, aluminum, rubber, and plastics from retired bicycles can all be repurposed into new products. Many bike shops and organizations will even accept bike donations and give them to communities in need.

Read on to learn the steps for sustainably disposing of your bicycle and giving the materials new life.

When Is It Time to Recycle Your Bike?

If your bike has any of these issues, it may be time to retire it and bring it in for recycling:

  • Significant rust – Heavy rust damage, especially on the frame, can weaken the bike and make it unsafe to ride. Attempting repairs may not be worth the cost.
  • Cracked or damaged frame – Cracks or damage that compromises the structural integrity of the frame mean the bike is no longer safe to use. This is especially true for carbon fiber frames.
  • Worn out drivetrain – If the chain, cassette, crankset, and shifters are so far gone thatrepairing is not cost-effective, it’s time to replace the whole drivetrain. At that point, it makes sense to recycle the entire bike.
  • Old and obsolete parts – Finding replacement parts for very old or obscure bikes can be difficult or impossible. Upgrading could cost more than the bike is worth.
  • Insufficient braking power – Brake pads wear out over time. If the levers are pulled to the handlebars before braking is adequate, the whole system needs an upgrade.
  • Excessive wear of wheels/tires – Wheels that are badly bent or cracked compromise steering and safety. Completely bald tires without tread have poor traction and handling.
  • General disrepair – A bike left outdoors for years with multiple issues can reach a state where repairs exceed the value. Recycling makes more sense.

Dismantle and Separate the Materials

Before bringing your bicycle in for recycling, you’ll need to disassemble it and separate the components by material. This makes it easier to properly process and repurpose each part.

You’ll need: wrenches, Allen keys, screwdrivers, wire cutters, gloves, containers to sort parts.

Steps to Dismantle:

  • Remove accessories – Take off items like water bottle cages, lights, bike computer, bell, mirrors, phone holder, etc. and set aside.
  • Remove the saddle – Use an Allen key to loosen the seat post clamp and pull out the seat post and saddle.
  • Remove the wheels – Open the brake quick releases. Use a wrench to loosen the bolts and remove the front and rear wheels. Deflate and remove the inner tubes if present.
  • Remove shifters and derailleurs – Use a screwdriver to detach shift levers. Then use Allen keys to remove the front and rear derailleurs. Detach shift cables with wire cutters.
  • Remove the handlebars – Loosen the Allen bolts on the stem and remove the handlebars. Remove any hand grips.
  • Remove the crankset – Use an Allen key to detach the crank arms and chainrings from the bottom bracket spindle. The chain will come off.
  • Remove the brakes – Detach the brake cables with wire cutters. Remove brake calipers/arms using Allen keys. Disassemble rim/disc brakes and collect any small parts.
  • Remove the pedals – Use a pedal wrench to loosen and remove the pedals from the crank arms.

Steps to Separate Materials:

  • Aluminum – Frame, handlebars, rims, crankset, brake levers/calipers, seat post, spokes, etc.
  • Steel – Bearings, bolts, nuts, shifter cables, spokes, etc. Anything magnetic.
  • Rubber – Tires, tubes, grips, brake pads.
  • Plastic – Pedals, derailleur parts, saddle, light housings, bottle cages.
  • Electronic Waste – Batteries from lights, computers. Recycle separately.
  • Hazardous Waste – Aerosol bike lubricants, cleaners. Bring to hazardous waste collection.
  • Other – Accessories, water bottles, pack remaining small parts together.

Tip: Refer to schematics if unsure of bike part materials. Do not throw away usable parts – donate instead.

Locate Bicycle Recycling Options

Once the bike is fully disassembled, you’ll need to find the right recycling programs in your area. Here are some options:

  • Local bike shops – Many shops accept old bike donations and components for reuse or recycling. Call around to see if any shops offer this.
  • Scrap metal yards – Scrap yards will purchase metal components for recycling. Aluminum pays the most. Provide an approximate total weight.
  • Community recycling events – Some towns, cycling clubs, and organizations hold bike recycling drives periodically. Check calendars for upcoming dates.
  • Mail-in programs – Ship parts to specialty processors like They refurbish or sustainably recycle all components.
  • Trash/recycling center – Most accept bikes and parts with scrap metal and bulk waste. Call to verify acceptance and any fees.
  • Nonprofit bicycle cooperatives – Organizations like The Bike Project redistribute or recycle donated bikes in the community.
  • Manufacturer take-back – Some bike brands like Trek offer recycling for their products through dealers. Check manufacturer websites for details.

Tip: Contact facilities in advance to ask about fees, pickup/dropoff logistics, and any preparation needed. Recycling locally uses fewer resources for transportation.

Dos and Don’ts to Keep in Mind

Follow these dos and don’ts when recycling your bike:


  • Completely disassemble the bicycle first
  • Separate and sort materials into categories
  • Clean excess grease and grime off parts if possible
  • Research recycling options and contact facilities before drop-off
  • Ask repair shops if they can reuse usable parts
  • Recycle hazardous fluids and components like batteries separately
  • Transport parts safely secured in a vehicle
  • Follow all policies and instructions provided by recyclers


  • Toss the whole bike in the trash
  • Leave any accessories, bags, locks, etc. attached
  • Bend or damage parts prior to drop-off
  • Drop off unannounced at shops without calling first
  • Put oil, lubricants, or batteries in with scrap metal
  • Send components with normal mail without checking restrictions
  • Throwusable parts and components in the recycling bin

Properly dismantling the bicycle prior to responsible drop-off for recycling is crucial. Avoid wish cycling by keeping hazardous items separated.

Frequently Asked Questions

What parts of a bike can be recycled?

Almost every component of a bicycle can be recycled or repurposed, including the metal frame and parts, tires, tubes, plastic components, chains, shifter cables, and electronics. Hazardous fluids require separate disposal.

Can I bring a whole bike in for recycling?

Most recyclers require bikes to be fully disassembled first into separate parts and materials. Scooping up a whole bike and dropping it in a recycling bin does not allow for proper sorting and processing.

How much money can I get for recycling a bike?

You typically won’t earn much directly from recycling a bike, perhaps a few dollars for scrap metal. The greater value is in keeping reusable materials circulating in the economy and out of landfills. Some shops offer store credit for bike donations.

What happens to recycled bike parts?

Parts containing metal get shredded and melted down to make new metal products. Tires get processed into material for surfaces like playgrounds. Plastic parts are granulated and remolded into various items. Usable components are refurbished and resold or donated.


By properly dismantling and separating your bicycle for responsible recycling, you ensure resources like aluminum, steel, and rubber retain value and avoid the landfill. This reduces waste, saves energy, decreases pollution, and benefits the community.

Many bike components in decent condition can also be refurbished and reused through shops and nonprofits. Do your research to find the best local recycling options that will give your bike parts a second life.

With some time and effort, you can sustainably dispose of an old bicycle. Parts that you relied on for years can go on to help build infrastructure, play a role in mobility for another person, or even become part of a totally new object!

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