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Turning trash into treasure with no strings attached

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Instead of sending usable items to a landfill, why not share them with neighbors who will give them a new home? That’s the idea behind, a grassroots network in more than 5,300 towns in 110 countries. Combined, there are nearly 10 million members, including several thousand in Seattle and vicinity.

Freecycle LogoThe nonprofit movement started in 2003 in Tucson, Arizona by an individual who wanted to “keep good stuff out of landfill” and instead see it reused. Membership is free, and everything posted must be FREE, legal and appropriate for all ages. Local towns are moderated by volunteers.

According to its website, the mission of Freecycle is “to build a worldwide sharing movement that reduces waste, saves precious resources and eases the burden on our landfills while enabling our members to benefit from the strength of a larger community.” The website includes a website with FAQs, how-to articles and links to articles on solving common problems.

Members of The Freecycle Network™ give freely and help instill a sense of generosity of spirit while strengthening local community ties and promoting environmental sustainability and reuse. Groups are formed locally so items can be exchanged within a short distance. The “winner” is usually the person who is quickest to respond or offers the best reason for needing a given item.

Members may also post about items they need.

Founder Deron Beal, who serves as executive director, estimates about 1,000 tons of items change hands via the Freecycle system every day. Although that is tiny when compared to 2 billion tons of waste the World Bank estimates is generated worldwide every year, fans believe it is one way individuals can make a difference.

Freecycle’s founder is trying to expand the platform to facilitate lending items through a “Friends Circle.” In an interview with Bloomberg’s Climate Report, he used an example of a drill. On average it is only used for 15 minutes of its lifetime, he suggested, adding it makes sense for households to share one.

“You can lend out your whole house on Airbnb, you can lend out your car – all for a fee – but no one has cracked the nut on how to lend out small items,” Beal told the writer.

Freecycle is a registered 501(c)3 with two full-time staffers. Its server and operating expenses are funded by grants, underwriting/sponsorships, ad royalties, and individual donations.

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