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  Straits Times 14 Oct 07
Online Recycling: Look what I got on freecycle
Green website lets you swop used goods instead of throwing them away
By Melody Zaccheus

THINK of it as an online garage sale where the items are free - all for the sake of Mother Earth.

A green movement which sprouted up in Arizona and branched into Singapore two years ago has already attracted 2,625 members here.

When members have things which they do not want any more, they will offer them as giveaways on the group's website.

If a member of the SgFreecycle Yahoo group (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/SgFreecycle/) is interested in an item on offer, he or she can make arrangements to meet the owner privately.

This concept has become quite a hit with the group in Singapore.

One member, Miss Lim MayAnn, 27, has been giving away books, clothes, figurines and toys for almost two years now.

The university student found out about Freecycling from an online article, and has been enjoying its perks.

She has acquired several items from SgFreecycle and put them to good use - like the two Bibles she takes to church and bible study.

'It so happened that someone on SgFreecycle was offering the same two Bibles I was about to go out and buy. It was a great coincidence,' she said.

And when someone said on SgFreecycle that he had old videotapes to give away, she jumped at the idea.

'I was thinking of watching old movies like A Time To Kill, but I didn't want to have to spend money and go around hunting for them,' she said.

'So when someone said he was giving them away, I headed down to his place at Bishan, which is pretty near my home in Upper Thomson to collect them.'

She has also acquired a pair of free diving fins. A new pair would have cost her about $50.

Freecycling has also provided a win-win situation for housewife Malti Lalwani.

The 40-year-old freelance teacher gave away old furnishings and books when she moved house five months ago.

'It's a fantastic idea. Giving away something you don't want or don't need any more frees up your place and reduces the clutter in your life,' she said.

'At the same time the person who gets hold of the items you have given away will be able to give them a new lease of life.'

Freecycle now has 4,000 groups around the world with a total of more than three million members.

Miss Lim said: 'We have a penchant for always being in vogue, so we have to buy the latest products and the most updated items in stores.

'This consumerist culture leads to us throwing away stuff that isn't spoilt, but just outdated.

'SgFreecycle allows users to check and see if anyone wants these items before we condemn them to a landfill to rot somewhere for the next few decades.'

While exchanging used items benefits those involved and the environment, there are some who take things a bit too far.

Group moderator Varun Arora, 33, who sifts through about 10 messages from members daily before allowing them to be posted on the forum, said he has come across some quirky offers.

One was from someone who wanted to get rid of game arcade tokens from 20 years ago.

Mr Arora, the general manager of an M1 subsidiary, has also dealt with some absurd requests.

'There was once a guy who said his computer monitor had died and he specified that he wanted only a 17-inch LCD one in replacement,' he said.

Requests for mobile phones, digital cameras, DVD players and 37-inch LCD televisions are common as well, he said.

As a moderator, Mr Arora does not have to judge what an acceptable request is unless, of course, it involves something illegal such as pirated software.

But to ensure the group is not overwhelmed with too many requests, he allows members to post only one 'wanted' message per day.

They are not allowed to repeat the same 'wanted' message for at least one week.

Mr Arora, who has given away games, a wifi set and four pairs of shoes so far, was tickled by one member's offer in particular.

'There was this lady who had secretly cleaned out her husband's collection of old equipment and posted it on our forum for offer,' he said.

'It was quite hilarious and I'd have loved to see her husband's face when he realised his stuff was gone.'

Mr Arora hopes more people will join SgFreecycle and 'give, rather than simply discard'.

'It's not that hard to make a difference as it only takes a minute to post,' he said.

Related articles in Singapore: reduce, reuse, recycle
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