Recycle By Cycle

By Heather Bowser, Daily News-Record

Some people ride bikes just for fun. Some people ride bikes just for exercise.

But two people at Eastern Mennonite University ride bikes just for work – hard work.

Jonathan Lantz-Trissel with the recycling bike and trailer Jonathan Lantz-Trissel, EMU’s recycling coordinator, pulls a recycling cart hitched to his bicycle during a pickup on Tuesday afternoon.
Photo by Jim Bishop

Jonathan Lantz-Trissel, 28, and Laura Cattell, 18, use the university’s newest and most unique bicycle to collect about a ton of recyclable materials from around campus each week.

With seven round trips, the two recycling workers haul their custom-built bike, which pulls an 8-foot trailer, to 24 recycling collection points on campus every week.

They haul hundreds of pounds of paper, hundreds of cans, hundreds of bottles and just about anything else EMU recycles – all without paying $2.75 a gallon for gas.

“Biking is one of the most radical things you can do,” said Lantz-Trissel, EMU’s full-time recycling coordinator who suggested the bike-trailer system to university officials last August. “And I get to do it at work. I love this job.”

How The Bike Works

To haul 2,000 pounds of recycling with one bike every week, no ordinary bike is worthy of the job.

An Iowa-based company, Bikes at Work, designed and built the 44-pound trailer, Lantz-Trissel said.

The metal trailer can haul about 300 pounds at one time, and Cattell said it is relatively easy to drive the bike while pulling it.

“I’ve only crashed two times, and hopefully no one saw me,” she said. “The secret is taking wide turns.”

To pull the heavy trailer, Lantz-Trissel had Shenandoah Bike Company install tires twice as wide as normal tires, and add additional spokes to the wheels. The company also installed an enhanced braking system that uses “disc brakes,” which work like car brakes.

How The System Works

Lantz-Trissel said his bike-trailer idea stemmed from his previous job as a bicycle messenger in Philadelphia.

“I found that I could get around Philly twice as fast on a bike than anyone in a car,” he said. “Plus, it didn’t make a lot of sense to ride my bike to work, then jump in a truck to do the recycling runs.”

Two days a week, he and Cattell, a freshman from Honey Brook, Pa., drive to the “top” of campus and work their way down the hill stopping at every building and dorm.

Cattell, who helps Lantz-Trissel as part of a work-study program, drives the bike-trailer while Lantz-Trissel rides his regular bicycle beside it to make sure items don’t fall off.

“We used to take turns, but then my bike broke, so I ride the trailer bike because his bike is too big for me,” she said.

After they collect the goods, they separate the glass, cans and paper and then load everything onto a tractor-trailer. Once a month, EMU takes the big trailer to Dave’s Recycling in Harrisonburg.

“It just makes me feel good,” Lantz-Trissel said. “I know that we’re doing something that contributes to the betterment of the community and of the planet that we live on.”