what is trash to you might be treasure to another ...
November 18, 2003 8:55 AM   Subscribe

Freecycling. Reducing the amount of trash we generate by connecting people who have things that they no longer want with people who want those same things. The only rule: Every item posted must be free.
posted by grabbingsand (31 comments total)
Brits of a certain age may recall Swap Shop
posted by brettski at 9:06 AM on November 18, 2003

Nice idea. I just signed up for the DC group, and listed a Web TV set I'm trying to get rid of. Anyone here want it?
posted by MrMoonPie at 9:09 AM on November 18, 2003

You'd think that a program like this would be a strong fit for the Bay Area but I didn't see us listed.
posted by billsaysthis at 9:10 AM on November 18, 2003

Nifty. One of the things I love about where I live is that the same ethic is kinda built in to the community. If you have something you want to get rid of but it isn't absolutely unsalvageable, usually you'll put it out by the curb for a while and hope someone else has a use for it. I've gotten rid of things this way, and also picked up a very cute wooden bench that I will surely have time to repair one of these days. :-)

Oddly, the same was true of San Francisco, although with a much greater risk that some ass would take your thing and smash it all over the sidewalk in front of your house. In DC, no one would even think of leaving household items in front of the stoop. I wonder why some places grow this tradition and others don't.

This is a good idea.
posted by rusty at 9:13 AM on November 18, 2003

Well, billsaysthis.... you can just start your own.
posted by grabbingsand at 9:13 AM on November 18, 2003

This is a neat idea. No group in my town (Richmond, VA) unfortunately.

A good alternative is donating items to local charities. I've been doing that for the past year as I've been "upgrading" some of my stuff. Definately better than just tossing it because you no longer need it.
posted by bullitt 5 at 9:16 AM on November 18, 2003

In DC, no one would even think of leaving household items in front of the stoop.

HAH! We got rid of our last set of bookcases that way. Before we set them down on the sidewalk--literally--someone came and got them.
posted by MrMoonPie at 9:20 AM on November 18, 2003

There are people who make their living by shopping the curb. When I took a certificate program in decorating at a community college, one of my instructors told us that the time she threw out her dog's ratty old favourite chair (because her dog had died) it was gone in 20 minutes. On friend threw out a couch - it was gone in an hour. About a year later, he saw it again in front of someone else's house on his street. And a year and a half after that, he saw it again in front of a third house in the same street. He's sure he hasn't seen the last of it. I've picked up a grocery buggy and a upholstered rocker myself (my mother recovered the rocker for me and it looks new, yet retro, now).

There's lots of free stuff out there if you only know how to find it, and this site is a great way to connect with people who have it.
posted by orange swan at 9:30 AM on November 18, 2003

In DC, no one would even think of leaving household items in front of the stoop.

you would not believe the things taken from our discard pile when we moved out of our rental in DC . . . bad canvases from art school, broken file cabinets, rusted pots. . .

odd how everyone experiences the same places differently.
posted by crush-onastick at 9:32 AM on November 18, 2003

This is a cool thing. I would like to see Philadelphia represented, but we at least have the Please Take Materials Exchange. Rock on, Dumpster Divers!
posted by soyjoy at 9:49 AM on November 18, 2003

Waco being the demographically polarized town that it is, there were plenty of families driving around in pick-ups at the end of each school year grabbing still usuable items that were discarded by graduating students. I found one family out in my parking lot when I was moving out and told them to stay there while I gave them a bookshelf, an inflatable chair (it was college, and I actually never used it. I'm not even sure how I came into possession of it) and some other miscellani. They were quite grateful and I was quite happy to be rid of it. Worked out well.
posted by Ufez Jones at 9:55 AM on November 18, 2003

BillSayThis: There's already a "free" section under For Sale on Craigslist.

Also, every time I've ever set anything out on the sidewalk in front of my apartment in Russian Hill, it's been gone before morning.
posted by antimony at 10:00 AM on November 18, 2003

billsaysthis: You'd think that a program like this would be a strong fit for the Bay Area but I didn't see us listed.

There is one for Sunnyvale in the South Bay.
posted by kurumi at 10:00 AM on November 18, 2003

Didn't see a listing for Maine, but we've got the "Free for the Taking" section of Uncle Henry's. I just gave away a couch.
posted by JanetLand at 10:18 AM on November 18, 2003

If you have something you want to get rid of but it isn't absolutely unsalvageable, usually you'll put it out by the curb for a while and hope someone else has a use for it.

Over here, if you put something out on the curb to give away it will usually remain there unless you put up a sign with a price. Then it will be gone almost immediately.
posted by gyc at 10:20 AM on November 18, 2003

Around here (Halifax, NS) you have to put a sign on whatever it is so people know it's free. During the summer it's not too uncommon for people to actually put a couch on the lawn for sitting in, rather than for getting rid of.

My favourite sign was "free to a good home" on a loveseat.
posted by tiamat at 10:46 AM on November 18, 2003

When my g/f and I moved in together, we put a bunch of her stuff on the curb. It was in the Mt. Pleasant/Columbia Heights section of DC, for those who know--clothes, bookshelves, a table, file cabinets, an aquarium, too, I think. One woman actually asked us if she could have a bag to take some of the stuff home with her. We usually do take stuff to charities, but they don't generally offer curb-side pickup!
posted by MrMoonPie at 10:48 AM on November 18, 2003

Portland, Maine does this in an organized way -- sort of. We have what's known as "Big Trash Day", usually in the spring, where you can put out a limited number of items that the City Trash Guys normally wouldn't take (like a mattress or furniture) and the city will haul it away. Of course, what actually happens is that people put stuff out days ahead of time and then other people drive around the neighborhoods and pick up choice items before the city ever gets there. Last year I watched in awe as our neighbor put out a series of increasingly crap-like items, only to have each disappear in turn. I think she got rid of 18 or 20 things over the course of one Saturday.

We put a loveseat out once, and then went out to run errands. When we returned, the couch was gone. Then, about five or six hours later it mysteriously returned.
posted by anastasiav at 11:42 AM on November 18, 2003

At MIT there is an email list where anyone in the MIT community can post things they want to give away. I've given away broken VCRs, free calendars that came in the mail from charities, and a Mexican wrestling mask (people were clamoring to take that off my hands).
posted by initapplette at 11:53 AM on November 18, 2003

We got rid of our last set of bookcases that way. Before we set them down on the sidewalk--literally--someone came and got them.

Dude! Bookcases are like gold!
posted by rushmc at 12:13 PM on November 18, 2003

Around here, nobody ever leaves stuff out, because there's a local charity that accepts anything and sells it back at fantastic prices ($20 for a table and four chairs, $15 for a glass-front TV stand, etc.) Where I went to college, though, leaving things out (and picking them up) was almost a local religion. The pickings were especially good at the end of the spring semester, when the Failure Freshmen gave up and went home.

You could find lots of furniture and such, but the real prize was "files". People would throw away their old lab notebooks, and since most classes used the same lab book every year, if you could snag a passing lab notebook for your class out of the dumpster, you could just copy it. The best one I found was a B+ from Chem II lab - the Chem labs were incredibly boring, and there was only one "right answer" for each question, so that notebook was an absolute treasure. I'd do the labs, take my usual halfhearted notes, and then check everything against the notebook before I wrote it up. Strangely enough, I got a B+ in that class...
posted by vorfeed at 12:44 PM on November 18, 2003

this is a good idea, but i wish it were more like a "freeBay" idea. like, i'm not really satisfied with the approach. it's too regional. i'd gladly pay shipping for something that was free. maybe i'll start one up. an online dumpster.
posted by magikeye at 1:17 PM on November 18, 2003

Thanks, anastasiav, now I have Trio's "Da Da Da" stuck in my head for the rest of the day.
posted by halleck23 at 2:16 PM on November 18, 2003

anastasiav: Of course Big Trash Day is like the annual festival of swapping, where you put out all the crap you collected last year to make room for all the crap you'll collect this year. But it seems like out here on Peaks it's a small version of big trash day every day.

I sublet one house here to another couple, and they borrowed a wheelbarrow from the neighbor across the street, and apparently they left it too close to the street for too long and someone assumed it was free for the taking and took it. Much embarassment all around, but ever since then IU've been wary of leaving my lawnmower out front if I'm not standing next to it. Maybe those Nova Scotians have something with that sign idea.

DC folks: I lived in Adams Morgan and Dupont, and I don't recall ever seeing much left out on the sidewalk for the taking. I always got the feeling my neighbors would be peeved to find a swap shop set up on their curbs. Especially in Dupont, where I always felt like the irresponsible young punk on the block because I hardly ever wore a suit.
posted by rusty at 2:44 PM on November 18, 2003

I put an extra ironing board out in our alley last night with a note that it was an orphan and should be adopted, and it was gone in no time flat.

Another cool community reduce-reuse-recycle kind of thing is "Garage Sale Day"--everybody in a town has their sale on the same day and the local paper lists what people have available: electronics, baby clothes, etc.

I've always thought there should be a national garage-sale day. Like every year on the first Saturday after the spring equinox--spring cleaning for the whole country!

"Increases stakeholder value dramatically!"
posted by jengod at 3:09 PM on November 18, 2003

rusty, something like that happened to a friend of mine's daughter once - except it wasn't a wheelbarrow, it was her bike. She ran in the house to use the bathroom and just dumped her bike on the front lawn during Big Trash week. When she came out, it was gone. (They got it back, though ... the car was moving slowly down the street and her Dad chased it down ... and then the people in the car had the nerve to be indignant!)
posted by anastasiav at 3:18 PM on November 18, 2003

Getting a wheelbarrow back on Peaks can't be that hard can it? Can't you just post a notice at the wharf or Hannigan's or somewhere and have it come home? My impression has always been that the actual residents were really good about that sort of thing. Or was it summer?

I'm sooo jealous that you get live on Peaks....
posted by anastasiav at 3:23 PM on November 18, 2003

I went to a few of the actual yahoo groups to browse the archives and couldn't without first signing up to the moderated e-mail lists. I like to poke around before going through all that rigamarole, so skipped it.

If the real point was to get the stuff gone, why aren't the archives public? I run several yahoo groups, one of which has over 3000 subscribers, and tend to keep the archives public unless there is a good reason not to do so. I can't see what that reason might be here. Could someone enlighten me?
posted by jester69 at 6:03 PM on November 18, 2003

I've been diving in dumpsters since I was knee-high to an emu and I'd have to say - this is a great idea whose time has come, except that the idea - as presented here - is missing several key elements that I'd love to make the core of a nonprofit business plan. Hint: harness market forces in an altruistic framework.
posted by troutfishing at 7:46 PM on November 18, 2003

anastasiav: In fact, I found out about it from a notice posted on the bulletin board at the store. "Wheelbarrow missing from 73 Upper A St." it said. I pondered for a minute, and then was like "Wait a minute, I used to live there!" I think the accidental perpetrator saw it too, and that's how it eventually got returned.

That bulletin board is gone now, after a 20-year run in the same place, because some punk-ass kid set it on fire one too many times. The punk in question has, I believe, been shipped off somewhere else, but the board is too much of an insurance liability and they can't put it back up. There's one on the side of what used to be the Merc, but it's too out-of-the-way and I don't think it's used as much. They're still trying to find a spot to put up a new permanent board. It's terrible, because that was a key resource.

And don't be too jealous. At the moment, I'm living the downside to being out here. My basement's covered with sewage and none of the toilets is usable, and the one guy who pumps out septic tanks "will be by to fix it eventually." There's pretty much nothing I can do. No one else comes out here to service septic tanks, and the guy who does it here obviously has no real incentive to make it a priority.

It's not all pretty sunsets, rocky shores and and summer hammock naps. I mean, sure, it mostly is, but not all. :-)
posted by rusty at 8:08 PM on November 18, 2003

Seattle has a freecycle list: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/freecycleseattle/
posted by black8 at 7:12 PM on November 19, 2003

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