While the old saying goes that one person’s trash is another person’s treasure – in the case of broken furniture, unusable goods and other items that can’t be re-sold it is important to take care of your own trash rather than dumping it on charities.
In a society based on constant consumption the increasing amount of rubbish being thrown at charities has become overwhelming with pleas coming from both Lismore Council and St Vincent de Paul (Vinnies) for people to think twice about what they donate.
In Lismore Eggins Lane was blocked by items left at the rear of the Salvation Army building over the Christmas break. This meant that local businesses couldn’t access the lane for deliveries and it took four truckloads to remove the debris.
‘Dumping items also encourages people to rummage through the articles and take items of value, leaving nothing but rubbish for the charities to clean up and dispose of,’ said Stuart Thomson Lismore Council’s environmental compliance officer.
According to the local Mullumbimby Vinnies shop they are spending $2,000 a month in transportation and tip fees to dispose of unwanted donations.
‘Clothing, kitchen, dining items and bric-a-brac in saleable condition are being stolen in night-time raids, even from inside the donation bins,’ said a Vinnies spokesperson.
‘Unwanted goods are being strewn around, further contributing to the mess. The combined impact of the dumping and pilfering is significantly reducing the funds Vinnies can spend on its community support work.’
Vinnies Executive Officer Michael Timbrell said the dumping of unwanted goods such as broken furniture, mattresses and electrical goods around charity shops has become a mounting problem right across Australia, including up and down the North Coast.
‘It’s fair to say the situation has reached crisis point, especially as the cost of sending waste to landfill is so high now. While only a small minority of people is engaging in these activities, the impacts are huge.
‘The alleyway at the rear of the Mullum shop is frequently an eyesore and a health hazard, and distressing to the shop’s volunteer workers who try to rescue clean and usable items that can be put on sale.
Consider yourself warned
Most of the major charity buildings are monitored by CCTV cameras and Lismore Council intends to look at footage with a view to issuing fines for future offences.
Mr Thomson ‘warned that leaving items outside op shops or charities when the organisation is closed may constitute an offence in relation to the unlawful disposal of waste, which carries penalties from $2000.’
‘We are encouraging people to only use clearly marked donation bins or to deliver items to these charities during normal operating hours where they can be received or rejected by staff. Any item that has not been formally accepted by the charity and is left unattended in a public place will be considered waste,’ he said.
‘The idea of donating good quality, unwanted items to charity is to assist these charities financially so that they can help the vulnerable and needy people in our community.
‘My concern is that some people have begun to see dumping at op shops as an entitlement and believe these organisations have an obligation to deal with their unwanted household goods.
‘This is absolutely not the case – and it’s got to stop. People need to take personal responsibility for what they are taking to charities and if it is waste they need to dispose of it in an environmentally satisfactory manner.’
Rubbish voucher Lismore
Mr Thomson said the most baffling thing was that residents and businesses in Lismore Shire are entitled to dispose of waste for free via Council’s electronic waste voucher system.
Council offers residents three free visits and businesses two free visits to the Lismore Recycling & Recovery Centre each year,’ he explained.
‘You can apply for a voucher easily online or over the phone, and you will have the voucher within two working days. We urge people to use this system and take waste to the Lismore Recycling & Recovery Centre where it can be placed in the Revolve Shop, recycled or taken to landfill.
‘It is a shame that we have reached this point but it’s time for Council to step in and take some action. Our message is simple – do the right thing or face a fine. You have been warned.’
Free drop off Byron
In Byron Shire, each household receives one free drop-off a year at the Byron Resource Recovery Centre for up to 150kg of bulky waste, or up to 500kg of green waste. A rates notice or water bill is required for the service.
Visit BSC website for more info.