Yahoo teams with Freecycle to turn junk into treasure

Yahoo teams with Freecycle to turn junk into treasure

San Francisco: Yahoo has unveiled an Earth Day initiative to divert mountains of landfill trash, using the Internet to match people unloading “junk" with those that want the stuff.

Yahoo through an initiative unveiled Sunday is hoping to convince its 500 million users worldwide to join, a nonprofit devoted to finding new homes for just about anything people are getting rid of.

“Our mission is keeping things out of landfills," said Deron Beal, who started Freecycle in 2003 and is its lone staff member.

“Junk only becomes junk after it no longer has any use. It is amazing what things people find uses for."

One Freecycle member put out an online request for socks, with or without holes. She was a school teacher with a class hand puppet project.

Another member gave away a half bottle of left over black hair dye.

Freecycle offerings have included “a box of chocolates, one eaten -- take as quickly as possible."

Beal gave away several tonnes of concrete chunks left from ripping out his driveway, posting the debris as “urbanite" in a Freecycle group.

Some went to a community garden and the rest was used in home construction.

The new alliance is a natural given that Freecycle members communicate via Yahoo Groups, private Internet forums that include community emails.

People post or email about what they are seeking to get or give in their Freecycle groups, which are broken down by geography so members are basically communicating with neighbours.

Members interested in offered items respond with messages telling why. Givers choose recipients, who pick things up in-person.

There are Freecycle groups in 85 countries managed by volunteers using their own computers.

“Freecycle is run out of my guest bedroom here and about 10,000 other guest bedrooms worldwide," Beal said.

Freecycle ranks in the top three Yahoo online searches in the conservation category, coming in behind recycling and global warming.

“You have this massive underground movement going on and it is growing like crazy," Beal said.

If the amount of junk the “free cycle of giving" has diverted from landfills were packed into trash trucks stacked one atop another, the resulting tower would reportedly be four times the height of Mt Everest.

“This is a delightful example of the power of community," said Erin Carlson, director of Yahoo for Good, the Internet firm’s “social responsibility" arm.

Yahoo is spotlighting Freecycle on an environmentally-themed Yahoo Green website launched a year ago and is enticing people to join by seeding groups with giveaways including an electric car and organic groceries.

Freecycle membership is nearly five million and Yahoo hopes the alliance causes Freecycle’s ranks to swell.