Recycle group breaks ranks with Freecycle

While Sams Valley resident Sheri Barnes had used the Medford Freecycle group to give and get everything from used clothes and appliances to old furniture and fall veggies, she drew the line at personal information.

With Barnes and fellow group moderator America Fucci at the helm, and following suit with Freecycle groups around the country, some 900 former Medford "freecyclers" recently broke away to form Rogue Valley Recyclers, registered under the ReUseIt Network (

The group's focus mirrors that of Freecycle, to prevent useful items from ending up in landfills, but does away with concerns plaguing Freecycle in recent months, said Barnes and Fucci — unwanted advertising and "harvesting" of user information.

Having helped moderate the local Freecycle group for the past year, and as a member for even longer, Barnes says she would have been happy to maintain the original Medford Freecycle group, which recently peaked at 2,500 members, but her protest against "a new way of doing things" resulted in the local group being threatened with extinction.

"Within the last six months, they had been telling people they needed to add this tool called," Barnes explained. "They told us to add this as a member on the list and it was just to link us to a new site they were making. What we found out is it takes all the e-mails from the Yahoo group and puts it on a third-party Web site. It's basically harvesting your e-mail and any information contained therein onto the World Wide Web.

"So when we challenged them, they deleted our group. Twice."

In addition to the Medford group, other Freecycle groups across the country are leaving the 3.6-million member worldwide network.

Barnes' Rogue Valley Recyclers has 891 members, compared to a newly created 88-member Medford Freecycle group.

Likewise, Grants Pass has re-created itself under the ReUseIt Network and members from both Eugene and the Albany-Corvallis area have been re-created as Albany-Corvallis ReUseIt and Lane County Pay It Forward.

Freecycle founder Deron Beal, in a recent interview with the Chicago Tribune, disputed claims that centralizing Freecycle operations on a new Web site on which he could sell ads — instead of via running it through Yahoo's groups network — was enterprise rather than environmentally focused.

The article reported, "aside from courting corporate sponsors to underwrite daily operations, (Beal) said he has no plans to turn Freecycle into a money-making operation."

Beal, who founded Freecycle with a single group in Tucson, Ariz., in 2003, told the newspaper that a new site set to debut apart from Yahoo in November, would be optional and groups would still be locally run, however he declined to say why so many local groups left the network.

Barnes challenges Beal's motives, arguing, "When we pulled away, Freecycle told us they felt like we were taking members away from them. That tells us it's a numbers game."

Kari Trescott, a Eugene resident and moderator of the newly created Lane County Pay It Forward, said she and some 3,700 members of the former Lane County Freecycle group felt the same way.

"The Owners of FreecycleEugene felt that the decisions being made at the corporate level were neither secure, from a data perspective, nor honest. We felt that the members we not being considered nor communicated to," Trescott said in an e-mail to the Mail Tribune.

Fucci, Barnes' partner in the Medford group, said protection of the local group — and keeping things local — would remain her focus for the group.

With a new group firmly in place, both Barnes and Fucci said the loss in numbers were likely due to inactive memberships. But they say the original Freecycling mission persists.

Fucci added, "I am actually ecstatic about the new group ... we are doing great things and it is all keeping in with what Freecycle was originally supposed to be about — keeping still usable items out of our landfills.

Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. E-mail her at

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