MacBride says it’s hard, if not impossible, to objectively say how much stuff Freecycle keeps out of landfills—Raval’s method is as good as any, she says. Several unknowns make estimates difficult. Will takers throw their free items away when they’re done with them? Do givers buy things to replace what they give away?
Raval admits it’s hard to gauge how much stuff PhillyFreecycle keeps off the garbage trucks, but says that doesn't diminish how much it has helped people and the environment. Plus she’s noticed a shift in how Freecycle users think of stuff in their homes—as things to keep around just when necessary. “It’s mine while I need it,” she says. “That’s a bigger accomplishment than the tonnage we’ve diverted—the mind shift.”
We’re not sure why China wants our trash (recyclables are considered commodities) and we are appropriately suspicious, but the money’s right so we’ll take it.