The History and Evolution of The Freecycle Network

You may have heard of the term “freecycling,” and if you haven’t it’s an amazing way to share items that are no longer of use to you with people who would be happy to have them. The official term describes a movement that was established to recycle items of all types that are still in good and usable condition by giving them away for free. This cuts down on the amount of items that end up in already brimming landfills throughout the country.

The beginning of the Freecycle Network

The Freecycle Network was founded by the executive director of the organization, Deron Beal. The network officially formed on May 1 of 2003 as a 501 (c) 3 company that conducted its activities for the purpose of recycling. The TFN is a world-wide membership based organization that serves 121 countries throughout the world with an estimated membership of 6,880,991. TFN originally started in the State of Arizona, USA, and spread quickly throughout the nation and the world.

Beal used an e-mail message to get the first group started. He sent his announcement out at the time he was working for a Tucson based nonprofit recycling operation. The estimated decrease in recycled items is set at around 500 tons each day. The organization is making a significant impact for the good of the environment.

The way the network operates

Online groups set up and manage mailing lists that offer items to fellow members with no charge. In order to post the items as up for grabs, they must be in good condition and something that can be used. It’s an alternative to throwing them away. Network message boards are used to advertise items which include clothing, paint, lawn furniture, home furniture, home decor items, lawn equipment, mattresses, electronics and almost any thing else you can imagine, both large and small. New groups are springing up on a regular basis, and usually cover the geographic area of a county. This makes it possible for people to pick up the items that are being given away without the need to drive long distances. When the items have been picked up, the message board is updated with a note that tells the rest of the group that it has been taken.

The Freecycle message lists are found in the Yahoo Groups section of the popular web browser. You need to have an email address to register as a member. This allows you to both post items you’re giving away, as well as take items that can be useful to you. If you don’t have an email address already, you can set one up for free to join the group.

Legal issues over the Freecycle Trademark

There was a legal issue over the use of the word “Freecycle” which was initiated by the original network. They claimed that the term was their original creation and that they held a trademark on the word. They asserted that other groups using the word were in violation of their rights under the trademark. The case was heard and a decision rendered in a United States Federal Court. Judge Callahan presided over the case an in November of 2010, she ruled that Beal did not have any rights to the term “freecycling” and further went on to state that TFN was not the first organization to use the term for its intended purpose. They lost their bid to retain exclusive rights to the term. The original Freecycling Network abandoned the trademarks when they engaged in naked licensing.

The evolution of The Freecycle Network

Without sole rights to the trademark, TFN continues to operate without a trademark, but they are only one of many operations that use the freecycling name for their message board style operations. All participants in the boards, including the moderators and admins, do so on a totally voluntary basis. Members are allowed to not only post items that they are offering for free, but there is also a Wanted category. If you’re looking for a specific type of item and you’d like to have it for free, you list your preferences and hope that there’s somebody who has one they want to give away for free. It’s not a place where any money ever trades hands, and this is the hard and fast rule that must be followed. The network is growing daily and while some members drop off, new ones are added consistently.


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