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  • Leah Cee

Op Shops are not Dumpsters

I visit Op Shops regularly and spend a lot of time deciding which one is best to receive my clients valued, pre-loved donations.

Unfortunately many in the community are using the humble, volunteer-run charity shop as a cheap way to dump their rubbish.  It is appalling to see some of the piles of trash mounting up outside the local Salvos, Vinnies, Save the Children, Red Cross, RSPCA (the list is endless), on a Monday morning after someone's weekend garage sale failed to clear all the clutter.

Here’s the reality.  If stuff is put into a garage sale pile and doesn’t sell, it may not be fit to sell.  Therefore a charity shop should not be the recipient.  

I had an interesting chat with a lady at the local Save The Children Op Shop today and she refused my items - although in good condition - because they had so much rubbish they were presently storing.  She showed me the piles of clothing bags - stacked floor to ceiling in a small storeroom - that were all destined for offshore landfill.  All clothes that community members had said were, “in good nick”, “just had a small stain”, “needed a wash”.   She then told me of a woman who arrived with a mouldy, broken, dirty pram and dumped it on the doorstep before telling the charity worker it wouldn’t fit in her bin, jumping in her car and speeding off.  

This is absolutely deplorable behaviour.  And it has to stop.  

Op Shops are NOT dumpsters.  

We need to take responsibility for the stuff we purchase, use and ultimately don’t need any longer, and not burden someone else with the problem.  

We also have to stop thinking our stuff is more valuable just because we owned it.  

Junk is junk.  Rubbish is rubbish.  

So what can we do?


  • Adjust our mindset about what is valuable.  Just because you loved your French Connection dress (until it got a red wine stain on it), it doesn’t mean someone wants to buy it.  Clean the stain and if it can’t be removed, recycle the item through a fabric recycling company like Upparel.  

  • Try listing on your Buy Nothing site.  If an item isn’t snapped up within a few days, maybe no one is interested.  Be honest about it's condition. Note in your post that it needs a clean or might need a lick of paint or a wash. If the ad gets zero response, there's a fair chance it'll get a zero response parked at a charity shop. Recycle it.  Bin it.  

  • Ask the Op Shop you intend to donate to if they will take your items. Listen to why they don’t want your stuff.  If it’s because they determine the items to be non-saleable, believe them.  These volunteers are sifting through mountains of stuff daily and know what sells and what doesn’t.  If they are just overstocked, find another shop.  Yes, it takes time and energy - stuff does that. 

  • Use your annual hard waste collection.  If you don’t have access to one, find a friend who doesn’t need theirs and maybe they can gift you one or share a joint hard waste pickup with a neighbour.  

  • Cough up some hard earned dosh and pay for a rubbish removal service.  Don’t expect a charity store to pay to remove your rubbish for you.  

  • Think about what you are buying when you initially purchase it.  That gorgeous little Mimco clutch is going to end up in landfill one day.  That basketball hoop the kids get for Christmas this year - it’s going to end up in landfill one day.  Those BOSE headphones you’re wearing at the gym are going to end up in landfill one day.  And all those cutesy little baby clothes that are completely adorable are going to end up in landfill one day.  They may even end up being shipped to Asia or Africa to fill their landfill.  

  • Have a quick think about how you’re going to get rid of these things when they’re no longer needed - and take the Charity Shop out of the equation.  Tough to imagine isn’t it?  


  • Don’t donate any items to charity shops that are ripped, torn, need mending, stained, missing pieces, mouldy, unclean, broken, don’t work, half used, out of date or need fixing.  The volunteers at these shops do not have the time to repair, mend, sew, clean, wash or fix things.  They do not have laundry facilities.  IT IS LANDFILL.  Throw it in your bin at home.  

  • Don’t burden other people with your rubbish.  Own it.  Take responsibility.  Charity shops are burdened with the cost of clearing the rubbish.  Any money made is being used to buy more skips and rubbish removal.  And your stuff is going to the dump anyway.  Save yourself the trip and shove it in your bin to start with.  

  • Don’t purchase throw away fashion, cheap homewares, kitschy knick knacks or souvenirs.  Find other ways to remember experiences.

This is a universal problem and could result in closure of charity stores nationwide if they can't afford the cost of rubbish removal, presenting even more issues to society.

Be mindful. Be kind. Be intentional. And enjoy the lightness of less.

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