DELFT, Netherlands: Two Dutch entrepreneurs have found a novel way to make money out of the thousands of bicycles abandoned in the Netherlands each year—by turning them into designer fashion items and furniture.
Industrial design student Lodewijk Bosman, 25, and Hidde van der Straaten, 28, founded “The Upcycle” in the university city of Delft in January 2012, to exploit a typically Dutch problem.
The Netherlands has more bikes—18 million—than its 17 million population, and around a million new bikes are bought every year.
But with so many bikes come parking problems, and if they are left in the wrong place, or simply abandoned, the authorities pick them up and take them to the pound.
This happens to tens of thousands of bikes a year, and while owners can get their bikes back by paying a fine of around 20 euros ($25), few do.
Unclaimed bikes are sold to bike shops that sell them on second-hand, either in the Netherlands or abroad. Lodewijk and Hidde also buy the abandoned bikes and parts, but with something different in mind.
Take for example an Upcycle bedside lamp, priced at 88 euros. It consists of a bike light with a new light emitting diode bulb fitted to a stem made of a few chain links and intertwined spokes—all standing on a wooden base wrapped in plaited inner tubes.
Other products include a bracelet made from bike chain links for 10 euros. A belt made from a tire with a buckle fitted costs 30 euros.
The Dutch duo have also come up with a dark and rubbery cubic stool made from waste wood covered in plaited inner tubes.
The name of their company, set up after winning a 10,000-euro prize for their innovative idea, is a pun on bicycle and upcycling, a process one step beyond recycling that consists of turning something to be thrown away into something of higher worth.
The company began selling products through their website in February and quickly attracted customers around the world.
“I’d say half our customers are in the Netherlands, the other half abroad,” said Hidde.
They hope to strike distribution deals with shops, including the Netherlands’ many souvenir boutiques.
“The bicycle is something typically Dutch, so why not turn them into souvenirs?” he said.