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Recycling with ease and with a purpose

By Lorraine Graves

Published 1:09 PST, Thu January 9, 2020

Last Updated: 10:28 PST, Thu January 16, 2020

Richmond Freecycle has been George Pope’s baby for many years. 

This Yahoo user group, with the motto “Don’t feed the landfills,” is a volunteer social network that allows people to rid themselves of unwanted items or to fill a need for free. 

An international, volunteer-run movement to reuse and recycle, Freecycle.org has grown to more than nine million members in over 5,300 groups worldwide. 

Recycling’s in Pope’s blood. He learned it from his mom, long before it became fashionable.

“She had to take cleaned, flattened cans up to the recycling centre herself,” he says. 

This was long before curbside recycling and blue boxes.

“She washed off aluminum foil and reused it, ditto for plastic bread bags—my lunch kits—and sandwich/snack bags,” he says. 

Pope’s first experience with Freecycle was finding a lamp made from books. He still has it. He also made friends with the fellow in Delta who listed the lamp on the Yahoo user group.

Pope says making friends is an extra bonus for Freecycle users.

“I’ve made new friends I’ve had for many years now through giving and picking items up,” he says. 

Over time, Pope became the moderator of the Richmond group (which has existed since 2004). He says he has a pretty laissez-faire attitude, and acknowledges some people are obviously using the group to just get free stuff. 

“No worries. Eventually they’ll be over-cluttered and will know exactly where to go to pass it all on again,” Pope says with a smile. 

Exemplifying the saying, “One person’s junk is another person’s treasure,” Freecycle has little trouble getting rid of stuff of all sorts in all kinds of condition from pristine to severely-loved. 

Pope recalls he once offered a scuffed dresser (on Freecycle) with several broken drawers. A young woman living near Kwantlen Polytechnic University picked it up. 

That’s another benefit to listing on Freecycle, Pope points out.

Later, the new owner of the dresser sent him a picture.

“She’d worked on (the dresser), beautifying and fixing it. It was incredible,” Pope says. “I didn’t recognize it.” 

Pope says it became a work of art instead of becoming firewood. 

“I thought she did a great job of upcycling it,” he says.

From baby clothes to hot tubs and kitchen chairs to the proverbial kitchen sink, this free Yahoo user group offers “as is, where is” objects. 

They just ask that you donate your Freecycle finds when you no longer need them because it would be unethical to sell a donation. 

Participation is easy and lists the steps: 

• You have a Yahoo account (but you can have group emails go to any email you prefer, not only your yahoo one).

• Join the group

• Post either an offer or wanted email

• Reply to an offer or wanted

• Make arrangements for picking up the item. 

So, if you are looking to declutter after the holidays or to get rid of the old stuff now that Santa’s left you newer versions, Freecycle’s for you. You can belong to more than one community’s Freecycle but you have to be prepared to go pick up any items you want. All items listed are to go to the most deserving, not necessarily the first person to respond. 

Nothing is too weird to list. At worst, no one will want your genuine toothpick model of the Eiffel Tower or your cast of your long-gone cat’s paw print. But it is surprising what goes.

One woman in the Nanaimo group ripped out all her well-worn, olive green wall-to-wall carpet and listed it on a whim on her local Freecycle group. Someone picked it up to use under the soil on her green roof. It spared the giver a trip to the dump and saved the recipient money. Truly the definition of a win-win.

Pope even saw a house listed on a near-by community’s group. The catch was it had to be moved away.

“Even if you think something might be garbage, it may have value to someone, even if only for craft supplies,” he says.

He harkens back to a December day in 2007. Newly married, with money tight, Pope’s coffee maker’s glass carafe smashed into the sink. 

“I love my morning coffee, so this was painful,” he says. 

A new one would cost more than the entire coffee machine. He knew it was a long shot but he posted a “wanted” listing. By bedtime “we had the right carafe and were ready to go for morning coffee.” 

Asked about his “wanted” now, Pope says “I’m looking for an enthusiastic person to be a volunteer co-moderator.” 

With his search for more paid work, Pope’s time has become tighter. He says the co-moderator will have to invest a couple of hours each week. 

“It’s a chance for great skills development for a student or an interesting hobby for a retiree.”

Pope also hopes to be able to put up Freecyle Richmond signs at our community’s recycling depot. Looking ahead to warmer weather, he says he’d love to have a float in the Salmon Festival Parade to help get the word out.

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