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'£45,000' A Year: Your Unwanted Items Could Cost A Second Hand Shop A Fortune

'£45,000' A Year: Your Unwanted Items Could Cost A Second Hand Shop A Fortune

The good intentions are there, but dumping damaged or poor quality items on your local charity shop could be costing them a small fortune.

Dove House Hospice paid £45,000 in 2023 to dispose of the items that were not in a sellable condition.

Emmaus Village Carlton spends up to £47,000 a year disposing of their poor quality donations. 

They are not alone. In fact, only 10-30% of second hand donations are actually resold in-store.

Your Unwanted Items Could Cost a Second Hand Shop a Fortune

Don't Just Dump Stuff Outside a Charity Shop

It can be tempting to stuff a load of items into a few boxes and make it someone else's problem. But it is really important to stop and think; is somebody going to buy this item? Would you appreciate it if you were given this item in a time of need? If the answer to either of these questions is no, then please do not donate these items.

And please do not dump donations outside a charity shop. The last thing anyone who works in a second hand or charity shop wants to see is a pile of ruined donations outside the door when they go unlock for the morning.

In fact, doing this is illegal as it is classed as fly-tipping. 

We have experienced this recently. We obviously understand the good intentions behind wanting to donate items, but when left overnight and in the rain, items can become totally unusable and will have to be chucked out. What a waste!

Thankfully we were able to salvage some of the items that had been left out in our photo. But many shops have a policy where all items have to be disposed of due to the health risk of items being left outside due to rodents, wildlife or just being exposed to the elements.

M&S and Oxfam Launch Way of Recycling Damaged or Worn Out Clothes in the Post

A new scheme from M&S and Oxfam allows you to send in clothing items that are worn out or damaged in the post. 'Too Good to Waste' is part of their existing postal donation service where you request a free bag, fill it up and then send it off in the post. But now you can include the damaged items in a separate sack. 

In the long run this separates the sellable items from the unsellable, saving a lot of time and gets clothes sorted, rehomed or moved on more quickly. 

Some charity shops DO accept donations of rags, but only if they are in a bag that is marked 'rags' so they don't waste time sorting through it all. Please do check before dropping them off, though, not all charity/second hand shops accept rags.

But crucially you still shouldn't donate any unwearable clothes that are dirty, wet or contaminated. These cannot be recycled, even as rags. 

Check These Things Before Donating a Second Hand Fashion Item

Here are a few things to check before donating used fashion items:

  • Check in with your local shop, what items do they actually need and which items do they NOT want
  • Item is clean, no dirty marks, free from odours, stains
  • Item is not stretched or altered in a way that makes it unwearable
  • Item is fit to wear
  • Check things like zippers are working
  • No holes, rips, tears in the fabric
  • From a smoke-free home, often charity shops will ask for donations from smoke-free homes as the smell can linger
  • Items is good quality and can last someone a reasonable length of time
  • Donate items in-season if you can, that way they can go straight out onto the shelves rather than sitting in storage 
  • Items aren't overly worn, or worn out - e.g no bobbling
  • Do not donate items like work uniforms or personalised items that no-one could wear

What to Do Instead with Damaged or Worn Out Clothes

One third of the UK doesn't know what to do with clothes that cannot be reworn. 3 in 10 people chuck worn out clothes into their household bin (M&S survey).

Damaged or worn out clothes still may be suitable to be passed on for textile recycling as rags. But they must be clean, dry and not contaminated with anything.

But you could also upcycle them yourself as part of a craft or DIY project. Denim can be great for upholstering stools, other fabrics could be turned into lampshades, and so on.

Need some cleaning cloths? Use your old tired clothing as rags!

Here are some more ideas on what to do with damaged or worn out clothes.

A Word on Investing in Better Quality Clothing

second hand jeans folded on a shelf

It would be hard not to end this blog without bringing up the rise of ultra fast fashion; increasingly, clothes are made super cheaply and at detriment to their quality.

We are now in the age of the micro trend or 'real-time fashion', with WRAP estimating around 95 million kilograms of waste being generated by outfits that were worn just once in the UK.

Now, we appreciate that many people are struggling with the cost of living and we do not wish to preach to people to stop buying necessities if they can't afford better quality clothes.

But better quality clothes do not have to cost much more than Shein, Temu etc, this is especially true if you find affordable quality clothing second hand.

This, of course, is getting harder in itself. You may have noticed the difference in quality in some of the garments found in charity shops. And no, it's not the fault of the shops...

The more that we shop, wear and dispose of cheap fast fashion, the more it will clog our charity and second hand shops. Will it sell? If it doesn't, it goes abroad and can end up in landfill. 

If we are able to, we need to be investing in better quality clothes that last. It isn't about buying designer. But it is about spending more on a smaller wardrobe, finding ways of getting better clothes second hand. It is an ongoing effort, but could potentially save you money in the long run if you don't have to keep buying in lots of new cheap clothes that fall apart in months. 

We have focused particularly on fashion here, as it is what we specialise in and rehome the most of (11,000 plus items on eBay alone since December 2019). But lots of the above applies to all the other kinds of items that are donated to charity and second hand shops.

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