Need to know
- Buy, sell and swap sites are a great way to clear out things you no longer want or need, without sending them to landfill
- Using these sites lets you connect with other people who share a desire to lower their consumption and declutter their homes
- Make sure you understand your rights and obligations when using these platforms, as not all are protected by the Australian Consumer Law
If you've just had a big clear-out of old clothes, books, gadgets and more, you might be wondering what to do with your unwanted items.
Charity shops such as Vinnies and the Salvos are always after good-quality items. But there are also a number of online sites beyond eBay and Gumtree that let you share, trade, buy and swap goods so you can free up space, make some cash and meet the neighbours.
Buy, sell, swap sites
Here's a selection of sites, groups and pages we've come across that let you share, trade and swap goods.
Facebook Pay It Forward groups
Pay It Forward Facebook groups are thriving online communities where people post items they're giving away free, or items they're in need of, in the spirit of giving and sharing.
Adelaide's Pay It Forward, or 'PIF', Facebook group has more than 42,900 members with more than 10 posts a day. In NSW, the Marrickville Pay It Forward group has 9600 members, the Blue Mountains PIF group has 17,800, and the Tamworth PIF group has 5700. It's more than likely there's one near you.
Buy Swap and Sell Facebook groups
With a broader remit and sometimes larger communities than the PIF groups, Buy Sell Swap groups let people exchange new or used items. Some don't allow business-related posts, but others do. Again, you can post requests for things you might be looking for. (We saw a post about two lost puppies and another from someone who wanted a concert ticket.)
These are popular groups with impressive membership numbers. The Sydney Buy Swap and Sell group has more than 83,000 members, Melbourne's Western Suburbs group has 62,000, and Sydney's Penrith group has 32,000.
Hard rubbish Facebook groups
For those who like to fossick and rescue useful items from landfill, there are Facebook pages dedicated to finding out when and where council hard rubbish collection is happening. For example, members of Sydney Hard Rubbish, Hard Rubbish Melbourne and Perth Kerbside Collections know exactly when to take a stroll around their neighbourhood (or a more affluent neighbourhood) to spot a dining table, rug or armchair to lug home.
Many people are choosing to refurbish and exchange as a way of reducing consumption.
Members of Streetbank can share goods and skills within their local community, "making the world a bit nicer" (according to the website). It's in need of more members to make it really useful, but you can request items or offer a skill or something to lend or give away.
Community Exchange System
The Community Exchange System is an online global network of communities exchanging goods, skills and services locally and remotely without using traditional money. Instead, credits and debits are banked to the members' CES accounts. There are 38 Australian exchange groups registered and 750 across the world.
The entirely nonprofit Freecycle has been around since 2003 and, according to its website, now has more than nine million members across more than 130 countries. Organised into local groups, members offer unwanted goods for free or make 'wanted' requests.
You can give away or find free second-hand items on Ziilch, but there's a limited selection.
Your consumer guarantee rights under the Australian Consumer Law may not apply when buying items through Facebook forums because the transactions would probably be characterised as private transactions, not made in trade and commerce.
And where a commercial enterprise that provides goods to rent would be required to give you a repair or replacement if the item were faulty, it's not so clear cut when you rent through a crowd-sourced platform. Renting goods could be viewed as a private transaction between two people.
Always read the group's rules and guidelines so you understand your rights when using these platforms
Nevertheless, platforms like these do have some statutory obligations. For example, the prohibition on misleading and deceptive conduct and false or misleading representations would apply. Equally, if you're paying money to rent your goods online, the platform would be providing you with a service, and the consumer guarantees in relation to services would arguably still apply.
Other potential risks for using peer-to-peer buy, swap, sell and sharing sites include the user damaging or losing a borrowed or rented item; people not picking up or returning items when they say they will; and sellers misrepresenting what they're selling. Always read the group's rules and guidelines so you understand your rights when using these platforms.
Meeting like-minded people
CHOICE content creator Alice Richard regularly buys and trades clothes and other items for her child and herself on various Sydney pay it forward and buy, swap and sell Facebook groups.
She says, "I've met loads of lovely people through these groups because I go to their houses to pick things up and often end up having a chat – and they usually have a similar ethos about sustainability and material things.
"It takes the guilt out of purchases, and it's more affordable to buy a 'new' outfit. There's also a nice element of chance: you stumble across things that you may not have been looking for, some unique pieces."
Buy, swap and sell sites can "take the guilt out of purchases".
Reinventing the 'sharing economy'
Rachel Botsman, author of What's Mine is Yours (2010), has researched the collaborative behaviours and trust mechanics inherent in these trading and swapping systems. She says technology is enabling trust between strangers and we can now mimic, in our global village, the ties that used to happen through face-to-face contact.
"Social networks and real-time technologies are taking us back," she says. "We're bartering, trading, swapping, sharing, but they're being reinvented into dynamic and appealing forms."
A report from the Melbourne Networked Society Institute, Mapping the Melbourne Sharing Economy, attributed the rise of this sharing economy to steady increases in consumption over preceding decades. And the sharing, loaning, swapping and trading of stuff has been enabled thanks to the technical processes established by platforms such as eBay, Freecycle, Craigslist, Gumtree and Amazon, and social networks such as Facebook and Twitter.
Many people are motivated by sustainability and a desire to reduce their consumption
But according to the report, the sharing economy also has roots in the so-called 'open source movement', where software and goods are made freely available, and the political idea of the 'commons', where resources are freely available to all.
Some people are drawn to these platforms to make money, others are there to find a new use for their goods that are idle – many are motivated by sustainability and a desire to reduce their consumption.
Tackling consumption and waste
This redistributing of unused goods that otherwise clog up our houses, or landfill, extends the life of the item and reduces waste and resource use.
Alice Richard says for her "it's about being able to affordably have a child in Sydney, but the bigger picture is reducing how much stuff we have and how much we get rid of".
These sites don't just help us unload our houses of goods either – they can be rich picking grounds for sourcing specialist items. For example, there's a popular Facebook group called 'Sydney Retro Recycle Buy Sell and Swap', and Facebook is also home to fashion brand-specific Buy Sell Swap groups.
You can also share or borrow goods through platforms such as Streetbank, instead of buying and storing them yourself.
Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.