A few weeks ago toitū founder, Jessie, put out a call on toitū's socials: anyone on the Gold Coast want a free bike?
Earlier that morning we’d been for a lovely walk along the beach (I've been best mates with Jessie for about 15 years) and I’d watched many Gold Coasters fly past us on their hip-looking cruiser bikes, wind in their hair and sun on their backs. I was incredibly envious, but also aware that I couldn’t spend upwards of $500 on a new cruiser bike. So, when Jessie’s beautiful face lit up my phone that afternoon, showing off a bike that she was offering free to a good home, I was giddy with excitement.
Jessie had been to the tip that weekend and witnessed a family offloading two bicycles into the rubbish deposit. They were a bit rusty, their tyres a bit deflated, they clearly hadn’t been used in a while, but otherwise they were in great condition. Shocked, she approached them and managed to save one of the bikes from its fate - my new baby, Brigitta. When she asked the family why they were throwing the bikes away, they just shrugged – they didn’t need them anymore, what else were they to do?
Unfortunately, this is a mentality that is fiercely embedded in the psyche of many Australians. Although we as a nation have embraced the paper bag and the yellow bins, some items are extremely difficult to recycle or repurpose: couches, cookware, bed frames and mattresses, desks, and stuff kids grow out of like toys, bikes, trampolines and so forth. So when we no longer have need for these things, they are often sent straight to the tip to be deposited in landfill. Yep, landfill. The big hole in the ground where material things go to die slowly over thousands of years.
But it’s important to raise awareness about other, more planet AND people friendly recycling options than just a trip to the tip.
So, you’re clearing out the garage. There’s some old things in there that you haven’t used in years, and probably won’t ever again – maybe a desk, maybe some pots, or some gardening tools. They’re a bit dusty, a bit chipped, but they can still do the job.
Your first point of call should be friends, family, neighbours, colleagues – first come, first served. Just a tip: unless what you’re offering is a priceless heirloom or the Holy Grail, don’t be obnoxious and put a price on it. Nobody wants to pay you $50 for something you bought at Bunnings ten years ago, even if it is 'still new'.
If friends and family aren’t interested, call around some of your local charity organisations. Ask them if they can take your stuff to give to people who need it, or sell it in their own shops. Red Cross, Lifeline, Vinnies and the Salvo’s are the popular ones in Australia, but you can visit www.opshop.org to find a complete list of stores in your town to contact. Note: some shops, like Vinnies, do send a lot of stuff to landfill if it doesn’t sell, so do your research and put in the time to find out the best home for your pre-loved goods.
Finally, online marketplaces like Gumtree, Ebay, and Facebook Marketplace are great for offloading something quickly to people near you. If it’s a bulky, awkward item, you can target it to someone with a trailer or Ute. Be honest with what you’re advertising: if it’s chipped, if one leg is a bit wobbly, if it was once blue and now it’s a weird rusty orange colour, be sure to put that in the description. You never know who will want it – as the rapper Macklemore once said in a truly horrible abomination of a song, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure!
Australian’s send, on average, about 20 million tonnes of stuff to landfill every year. Imagine what that number would be if people got a bit creative, a bit thrifty and a bit social with their old stuff. Without Jessie saving that bike from landfill, my love for Brigitta the bike would never have come to fruition, and I’d just be sadly watching all the other hipsters go by on their cruisers while I walked behind them like a chump. So next time a trip to the tip seems imminent, have a closer look at the items you’ve packed into your Dad’s Ute, and think about the planet and its people.
Written by Eve Dalton - bike enthusiast (now) and part-time writer.