Rather than letting thousands of perfectly good bicycles go to waste, an entrepreneur is rescuing them from the trash heap and sending them to children in Myanmar.
Since bike-sharing company oBike withdrew from the Singapore market and began their liquidation process in June 2018, Mike Than Tun Win was heartbroken by the mountains of discarded bicycles that were left behind.
“It felt extremely sad for me to see all these bicycles piling up in junkyard, left around roads and parks unattended and rusting,” Win wrote in a blog post.
“The manufacturing of these bicycles can cost anywhere from $300 to $500 per unit and a lot of natural resources are now left to waste and sent to blazing furnaces to be recycled (if we are lucky) or just simply left rusting somewhere else.”
Win then thought about all the young village children he had seen walking to school during his various road trips through Myanmar in the past – and he was suddenly struck with a bolt of inspiration.
“It’s a common sight to see lines and lines of students walking long distances from home to school in rural villages,” said Win, according to Tech Crunch. “Some students can walk up to one hour from home to school and the families can hardly afford a simple form of transport like bicycle or motorcycle… a school bus is almost unheard of to the students in rural villages.”
Win then started the LessWalk nonprofit so he could buy up all of oBike’s unused bicycles and donate them to schoolchildren.
The project has come with its fair share of expenses; in addition to replacing ride-sharing electrical system with regular key locks, Win says that he has encountered mountains of legislative red tape and fees in relation to shipping the bikes from Singapore to Myanmar.
That being said, Win is happy to report that he has successfully shipped and received about 4,700 brand new bikes with 5,300 more already on the way.
“The initiative is better than expected as I was trying to buy used bikes from recycling graveyards but managed to get 100% new, undeployed bicycles at a very good price!” writes Win.
“All bicycles are free for students living below the poverty line in Myanmar and need to walk 2 kilometers to school,” he added.
The nonprofit has been funding their mission with sponsorships and donations, but the bulk of their $400,000 financing has come straight from Win’s pocket.
He is currently in talks with various government organizations and grassroots charities in order to properly distribute the bikes. Ideally, LessWalk will begin distributing the bikes over the course of the next few weeks.
“I have been planning this since 1st March when I published [my idea] on Facebook and Linkedin,” writes Win. “Three months after my post, I am super glad that I can finally start working on it!”
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