How Listia’s Online Trading Is Helping to Reduce Landfill Waste

We all have things to give away, sell or get rid of but with no clear-cut method of actually doing it. Of course there is eBay, Craigslist and Freecyle but now there is also Listia. Users on Listia bid for points and then get ‘credits’ when they post an unwanted item on the website. They can earn more credits by referring friends. The community bids on these items auction style, ensuring the item goes to the person who wants it the most.

The lister doesn’t have to deal with a lot of emails thereby ensuring some privacy. If a user wants an item but doesn’t have enough points, they can buy more. Points can be bought at the rate of $5 for 50 points.

The company was launched in 2009  by Gee Chuang and James Fong and is backed by  Venture Capital Firm Andreessen Horowitz, several angel investors and Y Combinator. Over the weekend, I had an e-conversation with Mabel Yoshimoto from Listia and she got down to explaining the basic model of Listia that Chuang envisioned.

According to Chuang, Listia was started because they wanted a better solution to get rid of all the unused stuff piling up in our homes. So they set up a credit system with public profiles that made the process more streamlined. Their system of credits then allows users to purchase items on the site that could potentially end up in landfills, and rewards users for giving stuff away. Because every user has a profile, with feedback and reputation, Listia creates a social trading community.

“Our long term goal is to fundamentally change the way people think about the question, “what do I do with my old stuff?”.  Throwing things away is the easiest option right now, but if Listia can make  it fun and rewarding to give things away to others, then we can change this behavior and encourage reusing and recycling.

To date the company has rescued over 30,000 DVDs & CDs and over 40,000 toys from landfills. Most of these items are comprised of various materials including plastics that are not recyclable and can take millions of years to decompose. Toys are the most traded item on the site along with jewellery, crafting materials like plastic beads and scrapbooking supplies. Collectibles like game and trading cards made of plastic-coated papers also rate high. Finally DVDs and video games are also widely traded. According to Mabel, these are made of type #7 plastic and are not accepted by most recycling programs.

Listia helps users as much as it can to find items new homes. Mabel says, “items that don’t receive any bids automatically get re-listed up to 10 times. After that, the seller is notified and they can choose whether to continue relisting manually or not.” Any disputes are mediated by Listia Assurance that looks at problems on a case-by-case basis to ensure a smooth auctioning process.

Users can ship their items or can coordinate pick-up if the buyer is local. As the company grows, so does its avenues for local trading thereby cutting down on transportation of items. This also opens up avenues for  trading of larger items like furniture. Users can now use an iPhone to post their unwanted items on the Listia site and soon Android users will be able to do the same from their mobile device.
Thanks to Mabel Yoshimoto  for her time and inputs. 

Akhila is the Founding Director of GreenDen Consultancy which is dedicated to offering business analysis, reporting and marketing solutions powered by sustainability and social responsibility. Based in the US, Europe, and India, the GreenDen's consultants share the best practices and innovation from around the globe to achieve real results. She has previously written about CSR and ethical consumption for Justmeans and hopes to put a fresh spin on things for this column. As an IEMA certified CSR practitioner, she hopes to highlight a new way of doing business. She believes that consumers have the immense power to change 'business as usual' through their choices. She is a Graduate in Molecular Biology from the University of Glasgow, UK and in Environmental Management and Law. In her free-time she is a voracious reader and enjoys photography, yoga, travelling and the great outdoors. She can be contacted via Twitter @aksvi and also

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