Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Spinning on the Freecycle

Imagine if everything on eBay, the global Internet-based garage sale, traded for free. Perhaps that electronic marketplace would be called ``Freebay.''

Don't laugh. A large Internet-based giveaway exists in South Florida and throughout the country. The Freecycle Network, operates an Internet-based bulletin board where items -- fax machines, movie tickets, pianos and other household castoffs -- are offered for free on a first-come, first-serve basis.

''One person's trash can truly be another's treasure,'' say the organizers of Freecycle Network ( www.freecycle.org).

The Freecycle Network was launched in May 2003 by RISE Inc., a Tucson, Ariz., nonprofit group committed to waste reduction, recycling and other social issues. RISE created Freecycle as a way to reduce waste in Tucson.

But over the last year, membership in the program has expanded nationally and even beyond national borders. Anyone can register for either group by going to www.freecycle.org and clicking on the appropriate geographical region.

The Miami-based group was started by Michele Doss of Miami, who screens the posted messages on Freecycle Miami's electronic bulletin board. She urges new members to participate as donors as well as takers. Freecycle works best when there is a balance between giving and taking, she says.

Doss also adheres closely to the initial concept from Freecycle's founder Deron Beal: recycle, recycle, recycle.

''It looks like we're helping people keep a lot of things out the landfills,'' she says.

Curious about the local giveaways, I recently logged onto the global Freecyle site and registered for Freecyle Miami through Yahoo.

The list of available items included a playpen, a child carrier, a recliner, a hot tub, a water softener and movie tickets. As of June 10, a boy's 26-inch Schwinn bike was still available, but a 25-foot fiberglass boat was taken.

A family of five from West Palm Beach was offering a free General Electric washing machine that they acquired when they purchased their home last year. According to their report, the machine that came with the house is in good condition and doing a ''great job'' on the family laundry.

But a gift of a newer and larger machine prompted the family to give away the older one. The family wants to continue the spin cycle of giving. And as a give-away bonus, they are also offering an organic watermelon from their home garden and fresh eggs if their chickens cooperate.

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