We’ve all heard the saying, “One man’s junk is another man’s treasure” but too many times working in this industry I want to scream from the rooftops “One man’s garbage is still garbage!”
There is a big difference that we need to talk about and we need to talk about it now. I know! It feels horrible to put stuff in the garbage, particularly in this day and age when we have all been drilled with the message of “reduce, reuse and recycle.” I
n fact, our kids give us the hairy eyeball if we even THINK about tossing that plastic bag despite the sticky mess of spilled apple juice in the bottom. This is the way it SHOULD be. We need to do everything in our power to ensure that use-able items are re-used. It is the future of our planet earth. It is not just what we should do. It is what we need to do! However, the key word here is useable!
Look, I’ve been there too! We’ve all stared down that VCR. It’s missing a couple of buttons, smells just a little like cat pee due to an unfortunate incident in 1989 that we don’t wish to discuss, and the mechanics still work when you tilt it slightly to the right. And, that t-shirt with the stretched out collar that you bedazzled in 1996 to match your beer league softball hat. It’s still cool, right?
So, with good and wholesome intentions you pack it into the back of your mini-van and lug it to the closest donation centre. At the door is a smiling representative of the charity who happily takes your donation with a giant smile and you walk away feeling chuffed with yourself that you are a good and kind person.
So, what’s wrong with this picture, right? Everybody is happy, right? Aha! Here is where the problem begins that is happening but no one wants to talk about. That employee or volunteer accepts your pile of stuff including that VCR and the “Bedazzled Beer Babes Play Ball” t-shirt. She then spends valuable minutes sorting through it and putting it into piles and you won’t believe this… I know… but one of those piles is garbage! Most organizations re-sell these items to raise funds to keep their organization going. Or,they provide them to those in our community less fortunate than we are. That volunteer or employee knows that your garbage is, in fact, garbage. Nobody is going to buy those items. And, if there is a degree of dignity of the less fortunate that needs to be honoured. They don’t deserve garbage either.
Now, the charity has just spent the time of its employee or volunteer to have to sort the VCR and t-shirt out of the good stuff. Those are minutes that could have been spent counselling a client on finding work. They have taken up the space in their facility to sort and store the VCR and t-shirt. The dollars spent on that space (including leased space, utilities, cleaning, etc.) is space that could have been used to process new clients or to hold genuinely useable goods. They are now burdened with the cost of disposing of these items properly. There is the sorting, the transportation fees, the disposal fees. It’s adds up. It doesn’t seem like a lot when it’s your VCR and t-shirt, but multiply that by thousands of good-intentioned ‘donations’ and it becomes and entire cost of doing business that takes valuable and already-stretched dollars from where they could be having real impact.
Then… to top it all off, they take flack from people when they are seen to to be disposing of items because their facility or processing staff are completely overwhelmed. Here’s a quick and easy guide to decide what should be donated and what shouldn’t.
Before I donate ‘stuff’ I should make sure it:
- Is genuinely useable
- Doesn’t smell like cat pee
- Is in good working order or the value of the item FAR EXCEEDS the cost of repair
- Is in a reasonably clean state
- Is something that is needed/accepted by the organization you’re donating to
- Isn’t infested with any sort of living thing (bacteria, bugs, gremlins, etc.)
If you follow these instructions you should be good to go. Ahhhhh… okay, rant over. Hey, we at DeliverGood are in the business of reduce, reuse and recycle. We do it and we do it well, if I do say so myself. We match charities and non-profits who need stuff with people and companies who have stuff…that is useable and needed. Next time you’re about to make an in-kind donation, stop for a second and ask your self the above questions.
If you’re not sure where your item should go, you can find charity wish lists here: http://wishlist.delivergood.org Your few extra minutes of discretion will multiply into thousands of hours of good.
Give it. Got it. Good.