The Great Edinburgh Giveaway

by Christian McBride

Free to a Good Home picture borrowed from

Christmas sorted as 25,000 Edinburgh citizens sign up to Freegle, the free recycle and reuse site. The site, predominantly ran by a group of volunteers formerly of the group The Freecycle Network, focuses on the reusing of items that need not be taking up space in landfills. The site uses a private email contact service so there’s little stigma, indeed many would tout the feel good sense of it. The ‘grass roots’ community, as it labels itself, expresses the desire to avoid waste, you might not want it, but someone may. Anything, it seems, can be given or asked for, from old washing machines to pets. Edward Hibbert, owner of the Freegle group in Edinburgh has said that perhaps the most peculiar thing he’s seen for sale was “…a World War II air raid shelter (it was cluttering up someone’s back garden).  But it’s hard to choose – Giant African Land Snails are either inexplicably popular or make rabbits look celibate.”

 However the site does not strictly control the ebb and flow of items, instead they are an umbrella group nationally covering several other groups based locally and users must find and join groups to begin trading. The site promotes local charities to join. As Hibbert says “even though you’re giving something away for free, you’re getting something back – satisfaction, space or convenience.  That makes it pretty easy to get the message across – everyone has a reason to be a Freegler.”

The name is the conglomeration of ‘Free’ and ‘Legal’ which every transaction within their group must be. Hibbert has said that in regards to legal implications, “It’s tempting to allow borrowing, because then people don’t have to buy things they only need for a short while, and so it keeps more out of landfill.  But if someone borrows something and doesn’t return it, or breaks it, then you can get potential liability for Freegle as well as bad feeling between members.  So that’s something we avoid.”

With the recession tightening the nations belts actions such as these not only help avoid the pinch but can help the environment greatly. Dr Nicki Souter, campaign manager for Waste Aware Scotland said “Online sites are a great way to find an item you are looking for or find a new home for an unwanted item that you may have. By reusing items, people can help to save the earth’s natural resources and reduce the amount of waste that is sent to landfill.”

Regarding recycling rates in Edinburgh a spokeswoman for the City of Edinburgh Council said: “It is clear that the Council’s message of reducing, reusing and recycling is making a positive impact. Recycling rates in Edinburgh are extremely good and increase every year.

“While it is up to each individual, we aim to make it as easy as possible by offering kerbside collections and various recycling points around the city for those who are unable to make it the larger recycling sites.”

 The group, which now has roughly 930,000 members, has expanded from the 650,000 that initially started the group from Freecycle. The group split after so many became disillusioned with the way the group had gone from a grassroots organisation to behaving more like a corporation, with policies that were ‘insensitive to local needs’. Now Freegle runs on a far more democratic system allowing volunteers to vote on what should happen with the group.

And of course, it certainly helps with Christmas just round the corner, anyone fancy a chestnut roasting machine?