Wednesday, November 30, 2011

iRecycle: the app that my sister (almost) invented

The Keurig coffee maker was the first thing to leave the curb, picked up by a guy on roller blades. We peered from behind the curtains in the front window and watched him read the disclaimer, written in sharpie marker and taped to the box by my very honest sister: "This was given to us by a friend second-hand. We think it probably works, but we never actually tried it. Good luck." I don't know who had higher hopes, the roller-blader with the free find, or my sister, who was on a downsizing binge. She had gathered kitchen gadgets, clothes no longer in favor, sewing fabric, and miscellaneous items from closets, put them all out on the curb with an enticing FREE STUFF sign, and posted an alert on Craigslist. We felt like household goods adoption agents, monitoring the bonding between items and the passers by, but keeping a respectful distance so as not to jeopardize the attachment process. By the end of the day, even the single mugs had found new homes. We were left with a printer with a crooked paper feed, (the disclaimer having probably been too much information in this case), and a few other odds and ends.

Passionate about diverting things from the waste stream, my sister knew exactly where to take the leftovers to increase their chances of being reused or properly recycled. She knew which thrift stores in her community would be likely to resell clothes versus dishes, where to take the electronic waste, and where to donate the leftover craft supplies. Recognizing that not everyone is as obsessed or committed to this cause as she is, she proposed, "Redistribution needs to be easier for people...people aren't against recycling or repurposing, they just don't know what to do with their stuff...they don't have time to spend doing the research...they use up all their energy just making the decision to finally get rid of something, and at that point, they just need a quick solution for disposal... " And then the lightbulb went off, and for the next few hours, two low-tech sisters thought they had invented an App to save the planet.

While reading a magazine the following week, I discovered that we weren't the first people to think of this. It already exists.  iRecycle is available for iOS and Android, or at Earth911on the internet if you are still using a computer. It's easy to use! Enter your zip code, enter the item you are ready to recycle or redistribute, and find your local recycling centers.

You may be very familiar with the resources in your own community, but keep this in mind if you ever find yourself cleaning out the household of a faraway family member.  I wish I had known of this a few years ago...