‘Freecycle’ group aims to keep ‘junk’ out of landfills

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN JANET HAMOUS
What do you do with the old hide-a-bed your great-grandparents gave you when you first got married? It’s still in good shape, too good for the landfill. You really don’t want to pay to advertise it and you’re not planning a garage sale anytime soon.

The new Marion County “freecycling” program may be just the answer you’re looking for. The network provides a free, electronic way to connect people with items to give away with people who want to give those items a new home.

“It’s a way for people to help people instead of throwing their stuff away so we can help keep useful things out of our landfills,” said Sister Linda Catlin of Florence, creator of the new Marion County Freecycle group.

“You know, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”

The Freecycle Network is a worldwide grass roots movement begun in Tucson in May 2003 to promote waste reduction.

Since its inception, the network has grown to 1,473 cities and 511,920 people and continues to grow by leaps and bounds. Just during the time this story was being written, 26 new cities and 6,443 people were added, according to organization statistics.

Catlin started the Marion County freecycling group in August, and it now has 27 members. She is hoping once the word gets out about the group, membership will take off as it has in other parts of the country

“I’d like to see it grow,” she said.

Catlin said there are freecycle branches in Newton, Butler County, Salina and Wichita, but people aren’t always willing to drive a long distance to pick up an item.

“So I figured we could advertise it and get it going in Marion County and the surrounding areas so people don’t have to drive that far,” she said.

Catlin said it’s easy to join a freecycle group, and membership is free.

“It’s open to the public-anybody can subscribe,” she said.

The freecycle groups communicate using local Yahoo! member groups.

To join the Marion County group, enter www.groups.yahoo. com/. When the site comes up, enter “marioncofreecycle” under “Join a group.”

You may also join groups in other locations.

“Anybody from another county can join our group,” she said. “But if somebody in Wellington joined Marion County and someone posted something they wanted, they would have to drive from Wellington to Marion County to get it.”

The Freecycle Web site, at www.freecycle.org, offers information about the network and lists the locations of freecycle groups throughout the world. The Marion County group is not yet listed on this site.

Once a person becomes a member of a freecycle club, she or he is free to offer or request items.

“Everything’s on the Internet,” Catlin said. “If you have a refrigerator, you put “offer refrigerator” on the subject line and then you just post it to the group.

“If somebody wants that, then they’ll reply to it, and the reply will go directly to your box instead of to the group.”

Then it is up to the person offering the item to contact the interested party to make arrangements for pick up.

Items that are tentatively spoken for are marked “Pending pick up.”

“They’ll give them so long to pick it up, and if they don’t pick it up, they’ll post back ‘Reoffer’ until it is given away,” Catlin said.

If you are looking for a particular item, you can also post your need through the group, Catlin said.

Recent postings on the Marion County site included an offer of 60 empty CD cases, a request for a washing machine, and a “Reoffer” of a mini Shepard mix puppy.

Club members may view the postings by accessing the Yahoo! group.

“You also have an option of receiving a daily digest of items that are available,” Catlin said. “Or you can get single e-mails where everybody who posts everything will come in single e-mails to your box.”

Each freecycle group has some basic rules and a local volunteer moderator who is responsible for making and enforcing the rules.

Catlin is the moderator for the Marion County group.

She said the group’s basic rules are that nothing can be given away that is against the law, everything posted must be free, and no requests for money are allowed.

She said there are no limits to how many posts a person can make, whether it be a want, a need or an offer.

“A lot of groups will only let you ask for one thing a week and you have to offer something before you ask for it,” she said. “But I’m real poor, and I don’t believe that you should have to give something away to get something.”

So far, Catlin said she hasn’t had much to do as moderator.

“If there’s a controversy, then it’s up to me to stop it,” she said.

She said some sites have had problems with arguing and gossip.

“But there hasn’t been any of that on here,” she said. “I like small towns. That’s why we’re here.”

Catlin and her husband, Pastor Dan, operate Messiah’s Branch, a home-based ministry in Florence. They have several outreaches, including a mission in Wichita, she said.

It is through her work in the ministry that Catlin came to recognize the value of recycling.

“We feed and clothe the homeless,” she said. “We get support from all over the world.

Catlin is excited to see freecycling spread to Marion County.

“Freecycling is changing the world one gift at a time,” she said. “We’ll get these people freecycling around here. Then we won’t have to have those two trash pickups every year.”

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