Op-Ed: What is the Freecycle Network?

Posted Dec 17, 2012 by Alexander Baron
Once the ISP has been paid, most people can find everything they want on the web for free, but there are no freebies in the real world. Or are there?
Sydenham: Outside the local bookshop
Sydenham: Outside the local bookshop
Sydenham Arts Festival
As that old song goes, the best things in life are free, and are likely to remain so until the Coalition Government introduces a sunshine tax. There are certain other things you can get for free. A free ride in an ambulance if you're run down in the street. Anyone fancy that? Okay then, how about:
bag of packing materials (SE8)
mostly plastic bubble wrap of varying sizes, some packing 'chips'
Washing Machine SE23
Indesit washing machine- stopped working last week and may well be fixable but
we are moving to Australia this week and won't be taking it so not inclined to
call someone out to diagnose.
Mostly tops, size 16-18, great condition.
The three offers above were advertised recently in a London Freecycle Group; the letters: SE8, SE23 and SE26 are the postcodes of the people offering said goods. If you haven't heard of Freecycle, check the main website and follow the links to one near you.
There are no complex rules, basically:
No pornography,
No alcohol,
No tobacco,
No drugs (of any kind, including all medicines, vitamins, creams, etc.),
No firearms or other weapons
and a few other things like posting etiquette, no trading, etc, but you can sign up and get active in a few minutes after which you can ask, offer or both, but not in the same message!
Okay, that is London, UK, you say, what if I live in Nigeria? At the time of writing there are only five groups in this land of 170 million people, including one in Lagos, so maybe you guys better get active?
There are 15 groups in Greece, 23 in Spain and no fewer than 48 in the American State of Arizona where Freecycle started and was incorporated as a not-for-profit. So why aren't there more branches, especially in this age of austerity?
The Freecycle mission statement is to
" a worldwide gifting movement that reduces waste, saves precious resources & eases the burden on our landfills while enabling our members to benefit from the strength of a larger community."
That means you can give as well as receive. Who wants your old washing machine or busted lawn mower? Somebody might, if only for scrap or spare parts. Earlier this year we reported on people in Kenya who were turning scrap metal into energy. Which begs the question, why does this country have only 3 branches?
There is another, similar group to Freecycle known as Freegle. This organisation is based in the UK and grew out of Freecycle; there is a bit of a history here, but it's best not to delve into it, suffice it to say that even organisations started with the most idealistic of goals can become entangled in ideological skirmishes and worse.
So what use is Freecycle likely to be to you? Well, last week I picked up a scanner totally free from a Freecycle member at the other end of Sydenham. And look what I did with it.