Trash or treasure? Thinking of giving away your pre-loved stuff to charity? Read this to make sure you’re offering the right things.
You’ve decided to clear out the clutter at home and, just like the experts recommend on those TV shows about hoarders, you have three bags to fill marked ‘keep’, ‘throw’ and ‘give away’. But confusing the last two bags is costing charities millions of dollars a year, as they’re forced to throw away donations they can’t use, such as broken furniture and toys, ripped clothing, soiled sheets and chipped dinner sets.
“The reality is, the majority of the items donated to op shops — and I’m generalising across the board — are to be on-sold to generate funds, in our case, for The Salvation Army,” says Jeff McCartney, area manager of the Salvos Stores Eastern Sydney. So when you’re considering donating an item, try to picture it on display in the store. If you can’t, because it’s too old and tatty, then it belongs in the throwaway pile.
“We supply welfare as well, but even people on welfare have a bit of dignity,” Jeff says, and that’s something to think about if you’re considering dropping off an old chair with a broken leg. “People are doing it tough. Sure, we’re not going to send them something brand new, but at the same time, we’re definitely not going to send them something you probably wouldn’t let your dog sleep on, either.”
Here, Jeff helps us sort through the clutter so the good stuff makes it to the right people.
DO ask yourself: “Can this item still be used by someone else?” If the answer is yes — like a playsuit your daughter hasn’t worn since she was a bub or a pre-loved but still-intact teddy — put it in the giveaway pile. “The main thing is, if it functions to the purpose of what it’s meant to do, we’ll gladly take it,” Jeff says.
DON’T give away damaged clothing. If you have a skirt you can’t wear because the zip is stuck, or a shirt that’s impossible to do up because it’s missing a button, most charity stores can’t do anything with these pieces either. “I wish we did, but we don’t have the people or the resources to repair those sorts of things,” Jeff explains.
DO sew a button on that old shirt if you can spare the time. This small gesture means that piece of clothing won’t end up as waste. Jeff says some donors even wash and iron everything.
DON’T donate your old printer. “Printers are probably the biggest electrical item we can’t accept, as it’s ‘throwaway technology’, just like TVs and speakers,” Jeff says.
DO drop off your former treasures at an op shop during opening hours. If you have bigger items, like a piece of furniture that you can’t move yourself, contact your local charity directly as some can organise a free pick-up.
DON’T leave your donated goods next to an overflowing donation bin or outside of an op shop. “Basically, anything left out after hours or next to a bin will be rummaged and sifted through by some of the public, and it will end up in the waste because it’s what we class as ‘contaminated’,” Jeff says.
DO give away your old fridge. “We accept most electrical items and white goods as long as it functions and is clean. An iron that’s burnt on the hot plate area, a toaster full of crumbs, or a mouldy fridge is no good to us,” Jeff says. “However, if it just needs a wipe, then, sure, we’ll clean it up that way.”
DON’T forget: some of the items that end up in your throwaway pile can be recycled. For example, your old mattress can be taken to Soft Landing and transformed into carpet underlay, while your old mobile can be dropped off at a MobileMuster collection point.
For more information on The Salvation Army, visit . To book a mattress collection from Soft Landing, visit
RECYCLE YOUR OLD THREADS
If you’ve ended up with a clothing pile not suitable for an op shop, drop it of f at a H&M store. Their Garment Collecting initiative turns your old threads into new products, such as cleaning cloths or textile fibres for insulation. “We believe fashion is far too precious to end up in landfills and this is why we want to make it as easy as possible for our customers to give their garments a new life and help us close the loop on fashion,” says Elizabeth Cave, PR manager for H&M Australia and New Zealand. “Any clothes or home textiles — no matter what brand or condition — can be dropped of f at our collection bins at any local H&M store and given a new purpose.” For more information, visit now