Everyone loves free stuff. What if you get free stuff and also get to contribute your bit to save the environment? That is what the idea behind Freecycle is. Freecycle is a network that has close, almost five thousand groups and seven million members in 85 countries around the world. This rapidly growing non-profit organization claims to keep 500 tons/day out of landfills. Their work is neither charity nor entrepreneurship; it stems from the basic human value of give & take.
The concept is simple. If you have something that you don’t want or don’t have a use for and feel like throwing away in the waste then instead of binning it, give it to someone who has a need for it. Freecycle has city specific email groups where people advertise things they want to give away and whoever asks for it first gets to keep it. The giver may also oblige to drop it to your place if he is kind.
Mandar Mali, a graduate student at the Illinois Institute of Technology says “It’s very common in the US that the house you rent will be unfurnished.” For students who will be studying in a university abroad just for a few years it doesn’t make sense to buy new furniture just to sell it after sometime. This is where freecycle kicks in. “I got almost every piece of furniture in my house from people ready to give away things for free. All I had to do is rent a van for a day and go around the town picking up the items people advertise.” he continues.
Recycling in India although has existed for quite a long time. Thanks to the valiant ragpickers and kabaris who have made sure that they collect our unsorted garbage and recycle whatever can be. However theirs is indeed a difficult task. An undermined and unregulated activity, it renders almost a million people in India to live a very low standard of life. Most people in this profession earn very little daily which causes almost a million people in India to live a very low standard of life. The occupational hazard of working in this profession is also a serious issue. With the technological progress, India also has a growing electronic waste problem. A proper system does not exist to handle such waste and almost 150,000 tons of electronic waste is recycled informally every year, exposing these warriors of waste to radioactive tubes from CRTs and to toxic metals like Lead, Cadmium and Antimony.
India currently boasts of very feeble numbers when it comes to the membership of freecycle. Compared to Freecycle India’s 4000 strong membership, Freecycle UK has almost 2 million members. Bangalore leads the way with over a thousand members but the numbers quickly fall. Cities on the list are: Bangalore (1150), Mumbai (546), Delhi (511), Hyderabad (427), Pune (426), Chennai (387), Gurgaon (192), Lucknow (116), Panaji (102), Jalandhar (36), Jaipur (35), Ahmedabad (32), Vijaywada (27) and Kolkata (21). Kolkata is the only metro city which has very few members.
Following a system like freecycle not only helps people get stuff for free but also enables the society to help reduce unnecessary waste from going to landfills or causing harm to people involved in this profession. Yet the success of this system depends on the number of people involved in the activity. More the number of people, more the choice of things available and more attractive does the whole scheme becomes. These low numbers can be attributed to lack of awareness but with the growth of the reach of internet in India, we only hope that green activities like freecycle will take a quick leap.
The writer is the London correspondent at Youth Ki Awaaz. He is also the Oxford University Ambassador for the Voice of Young Science, a Sense about Science initiative.