‘A banana, concrete – those are good gifts’: the recycling group turning strangers into friends

There are 7,000 Buy Nothing groups with more than 5 million members worldwide. But their appeal goes beyond the chance to swap everything from nettles to power tools

Who on earth wants fish tank wastewater, chicken poo, tumble-dryer lint, loo roll tubes, “a plaster mould of a Komodo dragon’s foot” or half a broken toilet? No one, you might think, but the Buy Nothing community begs to differ: these are all real “gifts” snapped up by more than 5 million members worldwide, who give away their unwanted items in the local community. It’s living proof that “one person’s trash is another’s treasure”, as Alisa Miller, the administrator of the Blackheath/Charlton/Lewisham group puts it.

Miller offered her daughter’s broken toy birdcage with little hope anyone would want it; it was snapped up by a local flower-arranging enthusiast, and filled with succulents and trailing plants. Her co-administrator’s son is the current custodian of a toy helicopter that has been played with by five Buy Nothing families to date. Members ask for what they want and usually get it: anything from household appliances, furniture and gardening tools to clothes and baby gear.

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