Happy Birthday Ealing Freecycle!

Where it's all in the giving AND in the receiving

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For more information log on to http://groups.yahoo.com/group/ealingfreecycle/ and follow the simple instructions.

It's Ealing Freecycle's first birthday this month and with more than 4,000 members there is a lot to celebrate. So why, in this materialistic climate, are so many people so happy to part with their belongings for nothing?

Obviously there's the environmental aspect. Freecycle plays a valuable role in reducing the amount of rubbish sent to landfill by encouraging one of the most efficient forms of recycling – simply giving things to people who want them.

The site is the brainchild of Deron Beal, an environmentalist from Arizona, in the US, who started it in mid-2003 as an automated e-mail list. Today, it's snowballed into being a cross between an internet auction house and a global chain of charity shops.

So there's also the ebay-esque side of it – while people don't stand to make any money from anything they advertise, they will be offered bids for their items. But on Freecycle money doesn't talk, so bidders must focus on voicing why they deserve the freebie more than others. Unless of course, no one else wants it, in which case you're quids in (so to speak).

You join the service by posting an email to the Ealing yahoo group and wait for people to contact you. The converse also works in that you can post an email asking for goods that people may have cluttering up their house. The website advice is to try to make the first posting an OFFER and to keep the WANTEDs to one a month.

David Eales set up the Ealing branch. “I came across Freecycle over a year ago from reading an article,” said David. “It struck a real chord with me as I had always thought that fine as recycling is in terms of melting down glass and repulping paper surely far better would be to re-use something. Our loft was groaning under the strain of 'stuff that we know is worth money, but no one would really buy it'. I had an old dark room, a travel cot, etc etc.”

David had told me the best way to find out about what they were doing would be to experience it. And as an ebay addict, rubbish hoarder, and relentless bargain scavenger, who was I to argue?

I posted an item of children's plastic and sat back and waited. And while I waited I looked. It was a revelation to see how much people are willing to give away. The beauty of Freecycle is that you don't know what will be offered up from one day to the next. And while to a hoarder that can be deadly, you're in the right place to be reminded what clutter you could do without yourself and actually DO something about it!

The local nature of the group is a key factor in its success as some of this stuff would be impossible to get in a post box - one member was offering a large ash kitchen, and another had railway sleepers up for grabs.

“It’s a real eye opener seeing what people ask for and get rid off,” said David. “Some left over tiles, old printers, old monitors - the list goes on! It’s a real joy – some people get more joy giving than receiving – knowing it’s gone to a good home.”

There really is something for everyone here – gamblers, environmentalists, curtain twitchers, philanthropists, and in my case, bargain hunters. So I'll tell you something for nothing, I'm sold on Freecycle and it didn't cost a penny.

Charlie Canniff

April 26, 2007