If you’re holding on to old things that you don’t use, or are looking for something new to replace an aging gadget, before you throw your old stuff away, check out the ultimate online swap meet – The Freecycle Network™, an online forum for recycling items for free.

In 2003, rather than simply watching perfectly good items being thrown away, one concerned individual along with a few friends, found themselves calling or driving around to see if various local nonprofit companies could use their freecycling idea. Thinking there had to be an easier way, there soon followed the first email announcing The Freecycle Network™ concept, and the idea was off and running. It has now spread to over 75 countries, and there are thousands of local groups representing millions of members – people helping people and “changing the world one gift at a time.” As a result, they are currently keeping over 300 tons a day out of landfills! This amounts to four times the height of Mt. Everest in the past year alone, when stacked in garbage trucks.

This grassroots and entirely nonprofit movement consists of people who are giving and receiving stuff for free in their own towns and cities. It’s all about reuse and keeping good stuff out of landfills. Their mission is to build a worldwide gifting movement that reduces waste and eases the burden on our landfills. The Freecycle Network™ membership is free, and available around the world to all cities and to all individuals who want to participate. Freecycle™ groups are run by local volunteer moderators. If a Freecycle™ network hasn’t started in your town, you can start your own.

Electronic items such as computers, cell phones, and fax machines are loaded with toxic metals that when discarded, end up in landfills, with the potential to contaminate community water supplies. The Freecycle Network™ is one way you can keep your electronic items in circulation and out of landfills. Freecycling is also used by gardeners who wonder what to do with leftover plastic pots. If your school or nursery isn’t interested, offer them to your Freecycle™ group. Fluorescent tube light bulbs contain small amounts of mercury which can be harmful to health and environment. Many of the items that go to hazardous waste collection programs could also be reused by somebody. If you’re clear about the condition of your non-working computer, the Freecycle™ group could probably find it a home with somebody who likes to rebuild computers and can use the parts.

To sign up, go to www.freecycle.org and find your city by clicking on the region. It will generate an automatic email which, when sent, will sign you up for your local group and send you a response with instructions on how to proceed.

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 re-use. People from all walks of life have joined together to turn trash into treasure.