Freecycle this

Jan 28, 2004 at 12:00 am

Michigan State University librarian Kriss Ostrom needed some stereo equipment, and she didn’t necessarily want to pay for it. She got what she needed by surfing the Web over to the Lansing-area “freecycle” site, which connects people who want to get rid of stuff with people who might want it.

Ostrom enjoyed similar success when the nonprofit organization for which her daughter volunteers needed spray paint.

“I was able to get six cans of orange spray paint for free,” Ostrom says. “The organization didn’t care what color spray paint, they just needed some spray paint. A woman had six cans of orange spray paint in her basement. It was unusual for someone to have six cans of orange spray paint. The woman didn’t know why she had six cans of orange spray paint in her basement. One day, she found them while cleaning and decided to post them on the Web site.

“I have many items in my houses that I plan on posting on the site. It is better to reuse something. ... It is always better if someone can still get some use out of it because throwing it out serves no useful purpose to anyone.”

The Lansing site went online in September, and was followed two months later by Motor City Freecycle,

Aaron Liepman, who helped found both sites, says freecycling is an international movement whose primary goal is to reduce waste going into landfills.

“Some people liken freecyling to virtual dumpster diving,” says Liepman. “I believe freecycling is much more than dumpster diving because the system functions as a community.”

There is a vast network of freecycle sites, and they have one rule — everything posted must be free. It can be a chair, fax machine, piano, computer or a used paperback copy of The Mutant Monkees Meet the Masters of the Multi-Media Manipulation Machine.

The network boosts 175 freecycling sites and 19,077 international and national members. The sites are created and managed locally so people can find and pick up items in their communities.

The local site features links to a message board that lists items available to pick up for free or messages from people seeking specific items. There are links to other Web sites, a chat room for commentary on the site, photos of items, a database and a members list.

“The Yahoo groups [site] is free,” explains Liepman. “The only downfall is after someone views four or five messages, a small advertisement pops up. It is a small price to pay for all the good features Yahoo group offers to run the Web site. It also saves in the cost of running this group to get the word out. Without the Web site, we would have the cost of printing up flyers and mailing them out to people. It saves bucks in start-up costs and the cost of maintaining the network.”

Liepman says he hopes the group will grow to the point were people will be able to get anything from the mundane to the bizarre.

Bill Luttman of Luttman Precision Mold is hoping someone will see his posting for a Pennwalt Stokes plastics injection mold press, and get it out of his Sturgis, Mich., factory.

“We bought a new machine and want to get the old Pennwalt out of the building,” says. Luttman. “It makes molds for the plastics parts industry for the automotive, computer and hardware industries. I’m hoping someone can use it for spare parts.”

One important note: It weighs 18 tons.

Duane Barbati is a Metro Times editorial intern. E-mail [email protected]