Salvation Army, Vinnies want donations of rubbish to stop in lead up to Christmas
Captain Stuart McGifford from the Alice Springs Salvation Army says locals need to stop donating rubbish and unsaleable items. (ABC Alice Springs: Emma Haskin )
Australians are being asked to avoid using their local op shop over the Christmas period as an alternative to the rubbish tip, in order to help charities from being forced to spend millions of dollars annually on waste disposal.
Aife O’Loughlin, the customer experience manager for Salvos Stores, said the charity’s rubbish removal costs each year were excessive.
“Nationally the cost of waste disposal for Salvos Stores cost $6 million,” Aife O’Loughlin said, the customer experience manager for Salvos Stores.
Captain McGifford, who oversees the Alice Springs Salvos Store, said the shop has been spending more than $20,000 a year on waste disposal.
What can’t I donate?
- Anything broken, damaged, ripped, stained or in any way faulty
- Used barbecues
- Second-hand gas appliances or gas heaters
- Baby items that don’t have the Australian standards label on it
- Second-hand motorbike helmets
- Computer monitors, printers, scanners and other hardware
- Building materials
- Car parts
- Weapons – including replicas and martial arts weapons
- Taxidermy animals
“It’s a significant cost of doing what we do, and if people were able to do a better job of understanding what type of things are helpful to us, it would really help us reallocate that money towards the type of things that we love doing in Alice Springs,” Captain McGifford said.
Ms O’Loughlin said Salvos Stores are introducing changes to reduce these costs but needs community support and said people should consult with staff before leaving unwanted goods at stores.
“This is a cost we are actively working to reduce through recycling streams at stores and also through working with communities around the best ways to donate,” she said.
“Over this busy period, we are really grateful for donations but would ask they are made during opening hours at any of our stores.”
Captain McGifford said the amount of donations typically ramped-up around Christmas.
“I’m really grateful and overwhelmed by the generosity of people who give to the Salvation Army every time — especially at this time of year,” he said.
“[But] can people please think about getting rid of your rubbish and separating that from what could be donated? At Christmas time, people tend to get in a rush and they drop a lot of stuff here.
“Items like second-hand mattresses with stains and rips, items like scratched tables and broken off legs are not helpful to our cause and actually that takes money away from us being able to help the community.”
Recycling to reduce waste costs
Ms O’Loughlin said the Salvos Stores attempt to recycle wherever possible in an attempt to recoup costs.
“We recycle metals, electrical waste, as well as textiles through agreements with third-party partners,” she said.
“This means that if we get something donated which we can’t sell, we can try to recycle as much as we possibly can diverting it from landfill.”
Captain McGifford said the cost of waste disposal was often higher in more remote areas, like Alice Springs, due to there being less recycling options.
“The ability to recycle unsalable clothes is limited,” he said.
Captain Stuart McGifford encourages people to research what can and cannot be donated before dropping items off at the Salvation Army store. (ABC Alice Springs: Emma Haskin)
“There is an option to send clothes to the Alice Springs Correctional Facility to transform into rags, which we then buy back and sell, however the rag market is smaller in comparison to other regional centres.
“The transport and fuel costs of sending unsalable items to Adelaide are uneconomical.”
Colin Bird, the Northern Territory retail operations manager for St Vincent De Paul, echoed the sentiments expressed by the Salvation Army and said that in some years waste disposal has cost in excess of $70,000 per year across the territory.
“[It’s] the classic tyranny of distance,” he said.
“You you find yourself paying a lot more per square metre of rubbish up here than you do in most other centres so we’re burdened with that unfortunately.”
Vinnies Queensland’s general manager for retail operations, Roberta Jays, said people who dumped unsalable items were the minority.
“Thousands of people do the right thing every day, donating quality goods to assist us and we thank them for their generosity,” she said.
“The money raised helps us to assist struggling Queenslanders.”
Clothing ‘stained or ripped’
Captain McGifford said the sheer volume of rubbish at the Alice Springs store meant that two double skip bins are emptied at least three times a week from the op shop.
“We get DVDs that are clearly pirated from overseas and bought in Bali on holidays, and that’s great, but we have ethical concerns about that and we look at them and go, ‘That’s not something we can sell’,” he said.
Two skip bins are emptied at least three times a week with rubbish and unsaleable donations. (ABC Alice Springs: Emma Haskin )
“There was [also] an iron and it failed [electrical] testing and tagging.
“We plugged it in, hit the button and the tag and tester said, ‘electrically unsafe’ — those type of things we can’t sell.”
Captain McGifford said the Salvation Army had a responsibility to keep people safe but also to make sure that customers could be confident that the products were of a certain quality.
The logistics of managing unsaleable clothes at the Alice Springs store is also a challenge due to its remote location.
“The transport costs here mean that we can’t transport them down [to Adelaide],” Captain McGifford said.
“This is not a place that takes bulk second-hand clothing that may be stained or ripped or not good enough.”
In the winter months the Salvation Army’s Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands team come up from South Australia to do furniture sales in the APY Lands and return with the excess clothing.
Captain McGifford said as much leftover clothing that fit in the APY team’s vehicle are taken to a rag trader, a service which is only easily-accessible in urban areas.
Excess and unsalable clothing poses a logistical issue for the Alice Springs Salvation Army. (ABC Alice Springs: Emma Haskin )
“That doesn’t actually make any money. That covers the cost of their fuel back to Adelaide in an otherwise empty truck,” he said.
“So that’s the challenge — if we had to use a transport company and had to do it ourselves, it would cost money to be able to do that. And that’s really sad for us.
“We would like to see as much as what people donated, even things that aren’t saleable, go to a good place. We have to be sustainable as a society.”
Check before you donate
There is a list of items that legally the charity store cannot accept and Captain McGifford encourages the public to respectfully talk to the Salvation Army store about whether certain goods are acceptable to donate.
“Come and just stop at the back roller door and talk to our people,” he said.
“There are things our staff really don’t want to say ‘no’ [to] because sometimes people are quite rude to them and that’s really hurtful to them. They’re just trying to do their job.
Captain McGifford encourages people across Australia to do their homework when donating items.
“The worst one is gas bottles when they’re left here. They can cost a lot of money to get rid of and it’s not fair on us,” he said.
“It it’s not just about whether or not it’s good to you, there are also legislative requirements and practical requirements … we’re not allowed to sell them unless they’ve been tested by a licensed gas fitter and we’re not doing that.
“If you’ve got a functional gas bottle offer it to a neighbour or take it to the recycle yard.”
‘Resist consumerism’ this Christmas
As a Christian minister Captain McGifford is urging the community to think about the spirit of Christmas when it comes to gift giving.
“People don’t need another gift voucher, people don’t need another expensive, overpriced item that you had to ship in from Venezuela or Italy or somewhere else,” he said.
“Your friends and family need to know that you care for them enough to take some of your most valuable possession, which in this age, is time.
“Dedicate that to producing or giving or making or taking time to think of that person in a certain way.
“Resist the temptation to look at those consumeristic things as a sign of love. There’s something much better than love and that’s giving of ourselves to each other.”