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‘Free sharing’ sites expand on Internet

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“Waste not, want not” and “one person’s trash is another person’s treasure” have found new life online.

The original goal of Freecycle.org was ecological, Mr. Beal says. By reusing items, fewer new goods need to be produced, saving energy and raw materials. “We always try to promote reuse first over recycling,” says Trey Granger, a spokesman for Earth911.com, a website based in Scottsdale, Ariz., that provides information on local recycling. “That would always be the preferable option.”

Beal calculates that Freecyclers keep about 500 tons of stuff out of land­­fills every day. In a year, he calculates, that’s equivalent to a stack of full garbage trucks five times the height of Mt. Everest.

But today, say Beal and others involved in online give-and-take sites, people are also looking harder for ways to stretch dollars. Freecycle.org continues to grow by 10,000 to 15,000 members per week, Beal says. “I think that’s in large part a reflection of the economy right now.”

“I think people are reusing their things and not going out and buying new things,” says Linda Carrabba, who runs a local Freecycle group in Holliston, Mass., about 25 miles west of Boston. Her group, with about 1,000 members, is adding new ones, she says, and “It’s definitely more active. Way more active.”

Lately she’s seen an upswing in women requesting clothing that could be worn in an office. “It sounds like women going back into the workforce looking for business attire,” she says.

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