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Repurposers, reusers and recyclers are helping our environment one item at a time – and a Lower North Shore Group is leading the charge…


For those who don’t yet know about the Buy/Swap/Sell Facebook Groups popping up for our surburbs, they are a brilliant way to declutter. They’re also a treasure trove for repurposers and upcyclers who have a knack for finding new and clever uses for things. Undoubtedly, one of the best Groups is Lower North Shore (Sydney) FREE Stuff & Low Waste Living, which only lists items that are absolutely free. Created by McMahons Point resident Brenda Lousich six years ago, it’s wildly popular with thousands of local members, and is fulfilling a new and quite incredible role in our community.

“Welcome to the Lower North Shore (Sydney) FREE Stuff Group,” reads the intro. “This page is for those of you wanting to give away and/or acquire free items and save them from landfill. So if you need to declutter and would like to give your old things a new home, this is for you. Also, welcome to those of you who repurpose, recycle and upcycle.” The Group also encourages members to report a ‘kerb alert’, which is when good items are spotted out on a kerb for council clean up.

It was when Brenda was travelling behind a council clean up truck one day, that the idea to create the Group came to her. She was horrified to see perfectly good furniture and household items being crushed. “I thought, ‘Someone could use this stuff!’” she says. Waste is a topic she’s very passionate about, believing it’s one of our community’s main issues. She has made it her mission to encourage people to think more about where our waste ends up. “Especially plastic, and the run-off of garden chemicals during rain, and the wasteful and disposable society we have created,” she says. “Ours is a Facebook page that attempts to address some of this, and it has a strong environmental message. For many members it is a place to offer and claim items no longer needed, to be reused and sometimes repurposed, and most importantly keep items out of landfill”.

Above: Freecyclers are finding clever ways to reuse, recycle and repurpose

Having a read through the various posts on their page it’s obvious that the Group is doing much more than just cleverly upcycling free items. There are great environmental tips, requests from members to borrow items, some people are collecting craft items like bottle tops for a kindergarten or preschool, and then there are the posts requesting items for members of our community who are really struggling and in need of things they just can’t afford. For the record these usually bring the fastest and most responses.

According to Brenda it’s facilitating these examples of community kindness that are one of the best parts of her job. “As a Group the members helped a bunch of young people completely deck out their first share house with furnishings and kitchen stuff. One lovely story was when a member was attending her brother’s funeral and needed a particular coloured scarf to wear. Another very kind member stepped in and helped. People sometimes give flowers or little gifts as a thank you for generous gestures. We have also helped vulnerable members get the things they need but may not be able to afford. Our members are a generous, kind and compassionate bunch.”

Above: Group creator Brenda Lousich (Photo: Kirsten Delaney)

Brenda says she finds the Group very useful herself and regularly picks up some great free items. “But I do it because I feel strongly about getting the message across that we can take better care of our environment and, in turn, ourselves,” she says. While saving the planet is a serious business, there are also daily surprises and funny moments provided by what people post. “The quickest item ever to be claimed was a Louis Vuitton handbag given to a member by an ex and she wanted shot of it!” laughs Brenda.

The workload is a few hours each and every day. “Luckily I also have our Admins who do an awesome job helping me keep it in order.” Like Brenda, they volunteer their time because they’re passionate about the Group. It’s not all smooth sailing though, or smooth transactions. Posts have to go up from Admin regularly asking members to please follow through if they have claimed an item, as many say ‘sold’ and then never collect. Also, communication across social media can sometimes go wrong. “Myself and my wonderful Admins are sometimes asked to step in and help if transactions go awry,” says Brenda.

While some people are sceptical of technology and Facebook Groups in general, there’s something really wonderful about how this new social media platform is assisting communities to connect in an old-fashioned way, and to ‘pass it on’ when it comes to unwanted items. Brenda agrees Facebook Groups are a good thing as long as they’re being used correctly. “If they are doing good, and spreading positive and supportive messages, then they have succeeded in bringing people together,” she says. “We’re all human, we need to be kind to each other and have a bit of fun in the process. I would encourage everyone to join community-based Groups as real-life friendships and relationships can grow from them and flourish, and create a sense of community in the process. This may help with other issues such as forging a community where we care for each other and realise we are far more important than material goods.”