We all love a good declutter. Pulling cupboards apart, deciding which shoes spark joy and which ones to get rid of. It’s a good feeling as not only are you more organised, but you are helping others by donating your clothes or goods to helping others. Right? Well, not always.
According to the Council of Textile and Fashion Industries of Australia, Australians send around $500 million worth of fashion clothing to the tip each year, yet over 95% of it can be recycled and reused.So before you give your pre-loved items to charity, it’s important to make sure that the things you’re donating are actually helpful.
Op-shops run by charities such as St Vincent de Paul and the Salvation Army, allow low-income households to access clothing, books and homewares. They use the money raised through sales to run life-savings programs for marginalised Australians. They help feed and house people experiencing homelessness, they support people overcoming addiction and illness and are often the first ones on the scene offering disaster support. The work they do is immensely important and they require constant quality donations to fund their operations.
But, every item that gets donated to charity that is not in adequate condition gets thrown away. While we think were helping, we are often actually creating more work and there are still some in our community who, see op-shops as dumping grounds.
Charities are sending an estimated 60,000 tonnes of unsuitable donations to landfill every year, which is an added cost burden for these charities who are often already stretched thin. The Salvation Army spends nearly $6 million each year in disposing unsellable goods.
Here are some things to consider before donating your used things to charity.
Ripped, stained or broken
Do not donate any clothing or homewares that are ripped, stained or broken. You wouldn’t give these items to a friend and they cannot be sold. If you think the stain will come out with a soak, or it’s only one missing button, then soak it or fix it yourself before donating so that it doesn’t get thrown away.
An even better option than donating your quality goods in a bundle to an op shop is to use GIVIT to find out exactly what people and organisations need and then see if you have the ability to donate those items. NRMA Insurance has been a proud supporter of GIVIT since 2015 as we see it as a way for individuals to more effectively help others in need.
You can not only donate your preloved goods but also money or your time as a volunteer. It has over 3,400 registered community services which have specific requirements. For example, a non-profit in Queensland is looking for white goods to furnish a house for a family in need, and in Victoria another service provider is looking for a laptop for a student who can’t afford one. Targeting your giving and donating specific items which others desperately need is the best way to know that your good-quality used things are going to a good home.
Dress for Success is a charity that helps women who are doing it tough to find meaningful employment. There are branches in all major Australian cities. A large part of its service is dressing women for job interviews. It gets many wonderful, generous clothing donations, but they don’t want any corporate clothes that are older than about 5 years because fashion changes so much and the idea is to give these women clothes that give them confidence. Flared trousers, oversized suits, cropped jackets, pinstripes, thick shoulder pads for example are not going to work. Even in suits, things that seem timeless when new can date as corporate wear. So before donating your used business clothes you should ask yourself, as well as being work-appropriate, is it still relevant?
Although expensive to buy new and only useful for a short period of time, baby car seats, prams and cots can’t be taken by many op shops in Australia as the sale of these are governed by safety standards. However, there are organisations around Australia that take these second hand items and give them to parents in need. Generally though, the items must be in excellent condition, under 10 years old, and car seats must have the red sticker for the standard AS/NZS1754. Some of these children and baby support charities are Mummies Paying it Forward in NSW, Baby Give Back in Queensland and Tassie Mums in Tasmania.
Small electrical goods such as radios and lamps must be in good working order. No rust, no damage. If it’s something that requires batteries, or a new light globe, make sure you test it before donating it. If your appliance comes with a manual and/or original box, this will make it more useful for its next owner. It’s also important that you don’t leave electronics in donation bins or outside op-shops as they will likely be damaged and thrown away. Drop them off inside during opening hours.
We all want to help and see donating goods as a logical, easy way to support others. But we must make sure that our donation is a gift and not a burden. As a general rule of thumb; if you wouldn’t gift your used item to a friend or family member, don’t give it to charity.