Junk for Joy – how to Freecycle your unwanted goods

23 April 2008

Photo: Faringdon Ecoweek

Junk. You've got a lot of it, clogging up the attic, in the garage, and festering in the cupboard under the stairs. It is said that one person's junk is another person's treasure, and that is where “Freecycling” comes in, which is just the greenies' way of saying “giving stuff away”. Freecycling events, Swap Shops, swapmeets, giveaways are where people get rid of things they don't want and take things they do. It's the same sort of thing as the local jumble sale.

It is remarkable how much stuff we buy and never use, or get bored with and rapidly relegate to dusty oblivion. If you throw something away, then it will probably just go into landfill, and if it is plastic – remain there pretty nearly forever. Perhaps you also don't like throwing out things that work perfectly but are never used.

Photo: Faringdon Ecoweek

Then Freecycling is for you.

Two methods seem to have evolved: the face-to-face jumble sale approach: find a space, put out leaflets, people turn up with things, put them on tables, and take away what they need. This is an inclusive approach which does not stop people who are not “netted up” from participating.

The other way, is to have an internet forum such as UK Freecycle

Their mission statement is: “Freecycle groups match people who have things they want to get rid of with people who can use them. Our goal is to keep usable items out of landfills. By using what we already have on this earth, we reduce consumerism, manufacture fewer goods, and lessen the impact on the earth.”

People put up items online and when someone sees something they like they email the “vendor”. It's a bit like eBay without any money changing hands. Usually the taker has to collect the item. So the internet forums are also normally locally-based. Online forums also put up “wanted” notices for items that people need.

Photo: Faringdon Ecoweek

Dr Mike Pepler, one of the founder members of UK peak oil group Powerswitch, ran very successful “Swapmeets” in Oxfordshire as part of the local Community Action Group project, with lots of nice goods, and found that his group could make a run to the local recycling centre with leftovers, so very little actually found its way to landfill. He suggests: “The basic thing is to hire a room/hall and advertise it, then wait for the people to come!” and he also advises, “Have a donations bowl and notice somewhere near the exit, and beside refreshments - people often want to leave something in return for taking large items. We often got enough to cover the hire of the room, advertising and the refreshments.”

Photo: Faringdon Ecoweek

In March Faringdon Ecoweek held their first Swap Shop. Visitors saved over 400kg of assorted items from landfill, including books, videos, clothing, bric-a-brac and even some rolls of carpet!  Children were entertained by the balloon-bending skills of Simon the Stilt Man. There was also the facility to recycle print cartridges, foil, batteries and reading glasses. Refreshments provided by Faringdon Pre-School raised £25 for funds through donations. Another innovative idea was a prize – of a compost bin – to the person who guessed the weight of material saved from landfill.

Freecycling is taking off all over Britain. Everybody likes getting something for free, and if it helps save the planet from smothering in consumer waste, so much the better.







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