Reducing waste, creating communities

Reducing waste, creating communities

Volunteers Annette Curran (left), Dee Glentworth, BJ, and Lauren Curran PHOTO: Adam Blackwell

A Wellington enterprise that set out to reduce the amount of waste going into landfill is having an impact on its community too.

Free For All, which was founded by Dee Glentworth three years ago, aims to avoid usable goods making their way to the landfill and in the process is helping everyday Kiwis.

The initiative sees people donate unwanted but usable goods, that can then be claimed by others who want them. So in the process of keeping usable goods out of the landfill, they end up in the hands of people who want and need them.

Glentworth said the effect it had on the community was a bonus. “Our focus is reducing the amount of things going into landfill. Everything that is happening for the community is just a really really good side effect.”

Glentworth said it didn’t matter where you come from, what your story was, or how big your bank account was, Free For All welcomed everyone.

“We work with such a diverse community that items that would be no use to one, is highly in demand by others”

“Free For All takes out the normal hierarchy in society, so it’s not the haves giving to the have-nots,” she said. “It’s very much about us finding a common ground, which is waste reduction.”

One of the ways Free For All operated was appointment shopping days, where people could make appointments to come and shop for free at Dee’s Wellington home. These days often attracted upwards of 50, while larger “Event Days” that were held at Johnsonville Rugby Club, attracted over 300 people.

Free For All had become a full-time job for Glentworth after she quit her job as a teacher to put all her effort into the project. Even with the helpful hands of a few volunteers appointment shopping days take two to three hours to set up, and about four hours to pack away.

It takes 3-4 hours to pack up after an appointment day PHOTO: Adam Blackwell

Free For All also has a website, which was donated, developed and maintained for free by Auckland tech company Putti. The site meant people could list items for free that they no longer needed, and had allowed Free For All to expand their movement around the country.

There’s no limit to what people can take, if it avoids the landfill it is a win for Free For All. “We encourage people to take as much as they can,” Glentworth said.

Free For All took almost all goods, with only a handful of things such as broken goods, ring binders, and box TV’s not being accepted. Whilst electronics, toys, kitchenware such as pots and pans, and clothes were the most popular items that came through.

Annette Curran, who volunteers with Free For All, said that the community is grateful for what they are doing. “The thanks that you get from them, it makes your day.”

As high school formals approach, Free For All has also introduced Free For Ball, where high school students can make an appointment and use one of 60 ball gowns available.

Items that could not find a new home were sorted and often recycled to ensure that they are disposed of in the most environmentally friendly way, and hopefully avoid the landfill.

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Article by Adam Blackwell

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