Startup Profile: Freecycle

  • Freecycle is a web community promoting a gift economy through its goods recycling platform.
  • The non-profit startup was founded in 2003 in the US and has since expanded into 110 countries globally.
  • Freecycle promotes environmental sustainability through its community approach to reducing waste.

About Freecycle

The Freecycle Network coordinates gifting within local areas to prevent reusable goods from going to landfill. Deron Beal founded Freeclye in Arizona, US in 2003. At the time, Beal was working with RISE, a small non-profit providing recycling services and transitional employment in Tucson, Arizona. Those working with RISE didn’t like to see perfectly good items go to waste and often found themselves salvaging items to see if various local non-profits could make use of them. Beal set up Freecycle as a platofrm for others to set up local groups that spread this spirit of gifting and reusing and make it easier for people to do so. 

In 2009, conflict between the UK’s independent association of moderators and the founders saw at least 20 moderators break away to form Freegle which remains a rival platform in the UK. The Freecycle concept has since spread around the globe, operating in more than 110 countries, with thousands of local groups and more than 9 million members. As a result, Freecycle helps to keep over a thousand tons a day out of landfills. 


Freecycle event
Freecycle groups organise events including clothes swaps and university campus recycling stations.

How Does it Work?

The Freecycle Network allows users to offer unwanted items to groups in the surrounding area. The network acts as an online registry of unwanted goods organised into more than 5,000 local groups and forums. Users can use the platform to post offers (or request) free items for reuse, promoting a gift economy. The site is full of office clear-outs and house-movers offering a range of items, such as sofas, desks, freezers, buggies, books and DVDs. One user even claims to have been given a 6ft sailing boat through the site. Freecycle membership is free, and everything posted must be free, legal and appropriate for all ages.


Freecycle book club
Freecycle local groups also organise book swaps to promote the reusing culture.

In the UK, Freecycle is registered as a charity, funded by corporate underwriting and on-site advertising as well as grants and individual donations. The network’s current annual budget is running at about $275,000 in income. As a non-profit, groups are run by volunteer moderators who feel strongly about promoting the Freecycle values of generosity and environmental sustainability. 

Environmental Sustainability

Freecycle promotes environmental sustainability through its resource-sharing community. Recycling unwanted goods help to prevent unnecessary and environmentally harmful factory production. The worldwide gifting movement reduces waste and saves precious resources as well as easing the burden on landfill sites.