Freecycle vs. Free Shelf vs. Free Street

These days, now that there are two of us in the household and thusly about 1.5 times more waste (not twice as much, as two people are more economical living together) I really try to make the effort to not throw away anything except organic waste. I like to run with the assumption that somewhere, someone can use what I am not using anymore. To this, I might add that I mean someone local. It is often the case when donating large, obsolete items to developing nations, you can do more harm than good with how much trouble it is for them to receive something that they can ultimately buy for less than what it takes to get it in to the country. Take that in to account when you think you’re doing good by shipping off your 15 year old megalith to somewhere in Sub-Saharan Africa.
So, #1 Fan and I did some Spring cleaning recently and got rid of a great many things that were hogging up space in the 63 square meters we call home. But instead of just throwing them out, we tried Freecycle. Previous to this, I had just left items down on the Free Shelf or out in the very Free Street. Freecycle seemed to have some advantages, as you were basically advertising items that you wanted to get rid of and the people responding were really interested in getting them. Ultimately we had mixed results and realized that Freecycle is best for those living in a rural setting who don’t have a Free Shelf or a Free Street to easily toss items out upon. But, following is a run down of what works and what doesn’t in each situation.

It’s a website, but it’s mostly an email list that people post on and respond to. It seems like a great idea and a way to circulate things that you just don’t need to those who do need them. The principle is sound, but the how it plays out in the end is not. The two issues with Freecycle are the hoarders and the flakes. The former group are those that see something for free and think, “Hey, it’s free, I could probably use that somehow.” and they just respond to any and all postings no matter if they need it or not. This group sorta cripples the purpose of Freecycle and makes it a free for all that’s about as useful as the Shelf or Street method. This group is also most likely where the flakes spring from. There are so many countless, endless people on Freecycle who just never show up to pick up something that they said they were going to pick up. It’s pretty maddening really and makes giving things away a real pain.
Again, Freecycle is probably best for those living outside large cities, but then again, those are the areas with the fewest people subscribed.

Free Street
Yeah, just dumping it out on the street. It’s simple, but it can also make a neighborhood ugly. You can also get ticketed for doing it. In reality, unless you have something big that’s in nice condition, it’s a pretty crappy thing to do. This is about the only case where I do it. One exception is where I’m getting rid of an older pair of shoes. I go and put them on top of a trash can around the corner. Ultimately, some homeless guy will always pick them up and get some use out of them still. And of course, if this doesn’t happen in less than a day, I would go back down and toss them in the trash.
The biggest mistake [lapse in judgment] most people do is to put out old couches or mattresses on the street. These almost never get picked up until after some homeless guy has slept on them for a night or two and then the municipal trash ultimately tosses them.

Free Shelf
Probably the best method. I often leave things down on the shelf in my apartment, but then again, you really need to live in a decently large apartment to pull this off. This method runs the risk of angering the building manager though, unless you just put one or two items down there that are small and could really be used by someone else.
Lately, folks have been abusing the Free Shelf. Art students moving out (who never live in the building for longer than two years) will just dump all their crap down there. All of their “ironic white trash” apparel will end up on the shelf and stay there for days until the building manager tosses it. Some kids even left a pile of used bras and underwear. This is pretty ridiculous as a) no one in this building will pick it up and b) there are three charity groups and can actually use it. I’ve seen it end up in the trash on more than one occasion.
Even still, I love the Free Shelf and think that it’s just the bomb for person to person recycling.

Free Box
I close with one extreme failure of the whole free recycling thing which was the Free Box at Peoples’ Park. That box came to epitomize the worst of out capitalist society with it getting raiding by guys in the area who lived in the park and who got in fights with the other guys at the box over the junk people would dump there. They then ultimately sold whatever they got out of the box, negating the whole purpose of it. I was thankful to hear that it has gotten burned, smashed, and dismantled several times, since its presence in the park always created a bad atmosphere, unlike the Free Shelf in my apartment which just propagates endless love. Really, it does!
Freecycle vs. Free Shelf vs. Free Street