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DOEN Foundation supports Roetz-Bikes to build a more circular economy

AUGUST 30, 2021
Tiemen: “We really had to prove ourselves back then; nowadays, everyone aspires to be circular”

Of the 22 million bicycles in our country, more than a million are tossed each year. In 2011, Tiemen ter Hoeven saw a bright future emerging from this scrapheap. After advising big businesses about ‘remanufacturing’ or creating a new product from parts of the old product, he realised that the bicycle industry would be perfect for him to apply this model himself. Old bicycles as a basis for new Roetz-Bikes.

In our DNA

“Sustainability” is everywhere today. All companies claim to operate in this manner and everyone agrees it’s important. But things were very different back in 2011, when Tiemen founded Roetz-Bikes.

“Ten years ago we had to explain ourselves at every turn, prove that what we were doing was real. We were way ahead of our time. It’s all very logical now; everyone aspires to be circular.”

Having to explain himself everywhere meant that his story had to ring true. That’s why he decided that alongside green roots, Roetz-Bikes had to have solid, socially inclusive foundations.

“You start up a new company from scratch. For this reason, my co-founder Mark Groot Wassink and I believed it would be important to etch sustainability and socially inclusive entrepreneurship in our DNA, and to expand from there.”

Roetz-Bikes therefore became a company working with people facing challenges in the labour market to create handmade bikes from parts that had ended up on the scrapheap; sustainable and socially inclusive.

Socially inclusive foundations

If you visit a Roetz-Bikes factory today, it’s hard to imagine that it once started with a team of two. Working amidst all the parts and bicycles you see a team of experienced hands, new and until recently untapped talent and job coaches ensuring that everyone has an opportunity to grow in a safe, familiar environment.

Tiemen: “At a certain point, we got the feeling that nobody wanted to invest in people any more in relation to sheltered employment opportunities. That’s why we established a foundation in 2015. By dissociating the socially inclusive component from commercial objectives, we were able to safeguard opportunities and achieve greater focus.”

After struggling initially to arrive at the best form of socially inclusive entrepreneurship, professionalising the foundation proved to be the answer.

From scrap to gold

The basis for Roetz-Bikes comes from two wheelers purchased by the company from bike depots. The frames and front forks of the second-hand bikes that cannot be sold off there serve as the basis for new Roetz-Bikes. Other parts that can still be used go to repair shops run by other companies.

“In addition to making our own Roetz-Bikes, we also see opportunities in remanufacturing company bikes. When there were only three of us, one of our first big milestones was reconditioning a fleet of scrapped (public transport) bicycles. This gave us an opportunity to prove that our concept was real, something that wasn’t readily accepted back then.”

Supported by the DOEN foundation within the scope of the Circular Entrepreneurship programme, Roetz-Bikes works towards creating a more circular economy on a daily basis. The ultimate aim: the most circular bike possible.

“At present, our range of Roetz-Bikes is 30 to 40% circular and by remanufacturing company bikes – including those from public transport – we manage to recycle between 70 and 80% of all the parts. But there’s still a great deal of work to be done!”

The future is electric

Ten years down the line, Roetz-Bikes has expanded into a serious enterprise. It runs two factories in Amsterdam, its sustainable bikes are included in the catalogues of major chain stores, and just like Tiemen 10 years ago, its motivated team of individuals see a bright future ahead.

“Based on this premise, we aim to increase each product’s impact in the years ahead. The demand for our products has grown enormously during the crisis and we have to ensure that we keep step in terms of growth.”

Tiemen sees plenty of opportunities in the future with a popular product and an increasing number of companies in the Randstad conurbation with their own bike fleet. And the pièce de résistance has yet to come in 2022: a circular e-bike!

“We hope to market a circular electric bike. Not because it is made from old bicycles, but because the parts will be easy to reuse later. Keep an eye on us – 2022 is going to be a great year!”