Barb Checket-Hanks

Businesspeople across the country are looking for ways to show their social responsibility by recycling, usually paper, plastic bottles, and in the case of HVACR contractors, scrap metal. A national group called Freecycle takes recycling beyond this, offering people the chance to give away or take in goods.

The way it works is, local Freecycle Network™ group members notify each other that specific used goods are available to other members for free. Usually the only stipulation is that the person who wants it has to pick it up at a place of the giver’s choosing.

Daily e-mails tell members what’s available, which member is offering it, and a link to contact that member. No money is exchanged, nor should it be offered; the goal is to help keep these used items out of landfills by putting them into other people’s hands - a redistribution of property; a garage sale without about 95 percent of the hassle (and without 100 percent of the profits).

I have friends who have used Freecycle extensively, sometimes giving items, sometimes taking them in. They have even given and taken items like cell phones and other small electronics. In case you were wondering, the products worked. It’s common courtesy to let people know if the stuff being offered needs repair.

The network can be simpler to organize than other types of recycling. It also offers more direct interaction with the community. In a place of business, you would explain the process to employees and invite them to bring in goods they would like to clean out of their homes. Designate an area as the Freecycle drop-off/pickup location. And designate a person to coordinate Internet communication within your local Freecycle group.


The group got its start on May 1, 2003, when one person sent out the first e-mail announcing The Freecycle Network to about 30 or 40 friends and a handful of nonprofits in Tucson, Ariz. At the time, he worked with a small nonprofit organization, RISE, “which provides recycling services to downtown businesses and transitional employment to Tucsonans in need.”

Rather than watching perfectly good items being thrown away, the fledgling group found itself calling or driving around to see if other local nonprofits could use them. There had to be an easier way, and this became one of the better uses of the Internet. The founder set up that first Freecycle e-mail group in Tucson.

Since then, the concept has spread to more than 85 countries - “people helping people and ‘changing the world one gift at a time.’ As a result, we are currently keeping over 500 tons a day out of landfills! This amounts to five times the height of Mt. Everest in the past year alone, when stacked in garbage trucks!”

According to the group’s Website, “The Freecycle Network is made up of 4,834 groups with 7,341,000 members across the globe. It’s a grassroots and entirely nonprofit movement of people who are giving (and getting) stuff for free in their own towns.

“It’s all about reuse and keeping good stuff out of landfills. Each local group is moderated by a volunteer. Membership is free. Find your community by entering it into the search box (on the Website), or by clicking on ‘Browse Groups’ above the search box.”

“By giving freely with no strings attached, members of The Freecycle Network help instill a sense of generosity of spirit as they strengthen local community ties and promote environmental sustainability and reuse,” the organization states. “People from all walks of life have joined together to turn trash into treasure.”


There is even an offshoot specific to office recycling endeavors. Freecycle and Intuit, a personal finance software company, have partnered to launch Freecycle@Work. This free online application can be used by anyone who wants to establish Freecycle programs at their companies and educate coworkers. Freecycle@Work makes it simpler to repurpose equipment or to search for items for a favorite charity or nonprofit.

The group is a godsend for families in need, especially those with young children, or with children on the way. It’s also fun. Doing good things in the community can help everyone in your business feel good about where they work.

For more information, visit

Publication date:07/26/2010