The old saying says “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” but thanks to the new FreeCircles on Facebook, that treasure is also a bargain.
Oodle, a social commerce website that allows users to sell goods through its online marketplace, launched FreeCircles on Facebook in September to expose the network’s 800 million users to the “freecycling” movement, said Mark Robins, vice president of community for Oodle.
An extension of the Oodle’s Marketplace, FreeCircles are localized webpages that provides an outlet for users to “freecycle,” meaning they can give away unwanted goods for free instead of throwing them away and adding to the waste stream.
People also can ask about a specific item they need on their local site to see if any fellow users in their community are willing to unload it.
In the future, Robins said the San Mateo, Calif.-based company will add a competitive edge to the feature with leaderboards and badges for the most active users.
“It’s a social Craigslist,” Robins said. “You have social features: Who they’re transacting with is just as important as what they’re buying and selling.”
With the tough economic climate, more people are looking for used goods these days and FreeCirlcles can “meet that need,” Robins said.
Computers, printers, fishing rods, bikes and even an automatic cat feeder are among the items making their rounds on the FreeCircles.
Since Oodles began beta-testing in Palo Alto, Burlingame and Mountain View, Calif. in July, a couple thousand items – with an average weight of about 50 pounds – have been given away in the San Francisco Bay area.
That’s about “100,000 pounds of stuff saved from the landfills in a couple months,” Robins said.
The Palo Alto local FreeCircle site, for example, is seeing a couple dozen posts a day.
“Our goal is to have the whole world of Facebook in their local free circle,” he said. “[We’re] helping to reduce landfill and save the world. We have some more moderate goals. We launched it in the Bay area and we’re looking to expand that to Canada and the United Kingdom.”
Jennifer Berry, spokesperson for Earth911, said recycling is the easiest way for people to participate in sustainability.
She likens the impact of recycling to voting: If every person thought their single vote wasn’t important than millions wouldn’t be heard. The same is true with recycling, where “individuals do matter,” Berry said.
Earth911 helped Oodle conduct the beta testing. The Scottsdale, Ariz.-based company operates a recycling directory with more than 800,000 listings of recycling and disposal resources.
“Hundreds of millions are on Facebook,” Berry said. “You have the opportunity to give away items you no longer want, taking what would’ve been your trash and giving it to someone who might need it.”
Robins said he’s particularly excited about the community-building capabilities of FreeCircles.
Robins said some neighbors may have lived near each other for years and barely know them, if at all, so FreeCircles presents opportunities for people to connect. In one case, he said users became business partners after meeting each other during a drop-off.
“You can build community with people you live near,” he said. “You can meet friends.”