Ultimate Guide to Freecycle
Freecycle guide for anyone looking to donate or acquire pre-loved items
Looking for information on Freecycle, the world famous online swap-shop for pre-loved items? How it works and where it came from? Well you’re in the right place. Welcome to the Ultimate guide to Freecycle. It covers the following key sections:
- Overview and history
- How to use Freecycle
- Rules and guidelines
- How is Freecycle funded?
- Who runs it?
- Is Freecycle a charity?
- Is everything free?
- Does Freecycle have an app?
- Can you sell stuff on Freecycle?
- Alternatives to Freecycle
- Regional guides
Who or what is Freecycle?
Freecycle.org (sometimes called the Freecycle Network) is a virtual space where people can acquire pre-owned stuff for free or give away their unwanted items.
It works by location – town groups enable neighbours to create a local reuse network. The idea is to keep perfectly usable stuff out of landfills and connect communities of reusers.
It was founded by Deron Beal in 2003 in Arizona, USA. Today, Freecycle is a global project with over 5,000 town groups and more than 9 million members around the world. Although it started as a one man show, Freecycle is now run by thousands of volunteers.
As the name suggests, everything within Freecycle is free of charge. This includes sign up, messaging and all items on the platform.
Note: a number of other online reuse networks use the term Freecycle when talking about themselves or what they do (ie. free-recycling) which can cause some confusion. The word Freecycle is not trademarked, though there are some disputes over this!
Getting started as a user
From the UK sign up page, choose a username and enter an email address and password. Alternatively, you can sign up with Facebook. This provides an email address and password, but you’ll still need to think of a username. That’s it!
Once you’re signed up, find your closest town group. There may be more than one! Search by typing your area into the searchbar or use the map. Join your relevant groups and have a browse of what’s on offer. You can reply to any listing now that you’re a member.
Make or join a friends circle
As well as joining existing town groups, you could also invite some local friends to form a ‘Friends Circle’. This group is just people you’ve invited rather than a public space.
Along the top of your screen you’ll find a tab for “My Friends”:
Once you’re here, click “Add Friends”:
If you have friends already using the site, just type their username into the top bar labelled “Search for Members to friend”. To invite people that aren’t already on Freecycle, type their email into the bottom left box, or connect your Facebook account and send an invite.
How to create a listing
Click the “Make a Post” button in the top right hand corner of your screen.
From here, listing an item is easy. When posting to your town group, you can only make “Offer” or “Wanted” posts. Here is the process step by step:
- Choose which town group to post to
- Pick a title that sums up your item in a few words
- Give a general location – we advise against putting your exact address for safety reasons!
- Describe your item in a bit more detail. What are the features? What sort of condition is it? If it’s a piece of furniture, what are the dimensions?
- Upload up to 3 pictures. They need to be PNG or JPEG files. Try and take pictures of different angles and in good lighting.
Below is what you’ll see to make a post:
Lastly, choose some tags. This is just the general category of your item. You can add quite a few tags.
Post a listing in a Friends Circle
To post in your friends circle, select that button before filling out any information. It’s exactly the same to post an “Offer” or “Wanted” listing. However, in Friends Circles, you can post a “Lend” or “Borrow” listing too. This is a nice way to offer or ask to borrow things from people you know!
Press “Post” and your listing goes live straight away. Wait a little bit for some replies!
How to acquire things through Freecycle
To acquire stuff through Freecycle, you can either post a Wanted listing or browse other people’s posts. To create a “Wanted” post, follow the listing process above, except you would select the “Wanted” button and follow the instructions. Be careful not to post too many of these. For some reason, Freecycle doesn’t like it too much and you risk having your account suspended.
You other option for finding stuff is by browsing your town groups. First, you need to get to your ‘Dashboard’:
You’ll see listings like this:
In the red circles is the status of the item. “Taken” means somebody has already asked for it, and the owner has accepted. Below, the ‘Pine Chest with Mirror’ has the status “Offer” which means it’s still available. If you like the item, you can reply to the post (see the green circle). Then this box appears:
Just send a message now saying you’d like it! You could ask how they’d like to do a drop off/ pick up, or ask for some more information. Remember to be polite – any unfriendliness can get you banned.
Rules and guidelines
There are some key rules to follow that keeps Freecycle a safe and pleasant place for everyone to use. You risk getting banned if you don’t follow them, so be careful!
- No money can be charged or paid (even for delivery)
- Keep things that you post legal and appropriate for all ages
- Don’t post alcohol, tobacco, weapons, sexual content, medication or drugs
- Disclose upfront if you intend to resell an item once you collect it
- Any waste carriers must be registered – this is a legal requirement in the UK
- Post ‘Wanted’ listings sparingly. There are limits that vary by town group but posting too many may get you banned
- Just give or receive – no swaps or trading allowed
- No personal ads – yourself or anybody else. Use dating apps instead!
- Don’t post any animals
- Be polite, kind and courteous to other members
A note from some avid Freecycle users is to check if you have email notifications on. They send alerts every time a new listing goes live – you’ll quickly get a very full inbox!
Alternatives to Freecycle
There are several other sites that work in a similar way to Freecycle. Posting your item on multiple sites is often a good way to make sure somebody else finds it. And, if you like hunting for bargains then the more sites you check out, the better!
- Freegle – UK focused, very similar to Freecycle
- Trashnothing – US site similar to Freecycle, that has partnered with Freegle in the UK
- LoveJunk – a marketplace for waste removal and reuse. Local waste collectors and reusers (you can become a reuser here) review listings and submit quotes to take it away.
- Gumtree Freebies – part of the much larger Gumtree site, this area is focused on things being made available for free.
- Olio – a site mainly for swapping unwanted food, that includes a section for reuse of other things
- Facebook marketplace – has a separate area for free stuff and works in regional groups
- Schpock – mainly small items and or electricals rather than furniture and big stuff
- Village – low volume of items but included here for completeness
Did you know? Freegle emerged after UK branches of Freecycle allegedly had disagreements with management from the US. So there is a good reason they are so similar! If you’d like to dive a little deeper into the disputes, you can read an article here.
How is Freecycle funded?
Funding comes from individual donations, grants, sponsorships and ads.
According to their ‘About us’ page, approximately 90% of their funding is used directly for programming expenses. The remaining 10% is spent on membership, fundraising and other administrative costs.
Who runs Freecycle?
Freecycle is largely run by volunteers around the world. They moderate pages to make sure there is no spam or inappropriate content. There are only 2 official employees: the Executive Director (and founder, Deron Beal), and a software engineer.
Is Freecycle a charity?
Freecycle is a registered charity in the UK. In the US, where it was founded, they class it as a ‘non-profit corporation’.
Is everything free on Freecycle?
Yes, everything posted on Freecycle should cost nothing at all. This includes shipping (ie. delivery costs). The idea is that that town groups put locals in touch. So you should be able to pick up or drop off items by car, public transport or – even better – on foot.
Does Freecycle have an app?
No, Freecycle doesn’t have an app. It is web-based only.
However, both Trashnothing (confusingly called Freecycle +) and Freegle have apps for Apple and Google Play.
Trashnothing has a 3.4 rating while Freegle has a 4.3 rating. The main complaints being that the apps aren’t too user friendly and generally a bit buggy.
Can you sell stuff on Freecycle?
No, everything on the platform must be free. The idea is to give and receive with no strings. If you want to sell items, here are some other sites you could look at:
- eBay – the original buy and sell marketplace
- Gumtree – similar to eBay, for buying and selling locally
- Shpock – local buy and sell marketplace, good for smaller items
- Vinted – best for selling clothes but some larger items too
- Depop – also mostly used for selling clothes, but worth including!
- Village – a combination of Nexdoor, Shpock and Freecycle
Maybe obvious but, if you’re looking for pre-owned things and you’re happy to pay, these are great sites. Not just for selling.
Regional guides for Freecycle & reuse
Here are some regional reuse guides which provide in-depth information about options for reuse, including Freecycle, in and around a specific area. Our guides are always expanding – keep checking back for more! And if you live somewhere and would love us to create a guide for your region, then please get in touch below.
Thanks for reading! We hope this clears up any questions about Freecycle and how to use it. If you’ve got any feedback, we’d love to hear from you. Drop us an email at [email protected] or find us on our social media channels @thejunklover.