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Mixed emotions on commercial charity bins


Michael Inman

RELAXED: Barry Williams is happy with his agreement.

RELAXED: Barry Williams is happy with his agreement. Photo: Lannon Harley

A Melbourne charity organisation has condemned commercial operators it says are using cash-starved non-profit groups to work Canberra donation bins.

But a Canberra charity said the funds raised helps keep their doors open.

The National Association of Charitable Recycling Organisations says second-hand clothing dealers export millions of dollars in goods collected from donation bins.

The group's chief executive, Kerryn Caulfield, said the commercial operators would do anything to get their hands on goods, including misrepresenting legitimate charitable recyclers or recruiting hapless charities for the use of their brand.

Clothing collected from the bins is sorted and exported in a market worth an estimated $100 million each year.

The charities are paid per kilogram of clothing gathered for the use of their brands.

To stay within the law, some operators include a small-print declaration that they are commercial but many consumers do not read the fine detail.

Lone Fathers Association operates about 80 bins in the ACT, which are managed by a third party.

Association president Barry Williams said the charity, which relies on fund-raising and government grants as well as profits from the bins, receives 5¢ per kilogram collected.

The group receives about $1600 a month from the deal. Mr Williams, who has been involved with the group for 40 years, said the cash was ploughed back into the community.

''It helps us keep our doors open,'' he said.

''We're a charity, we live in Canberra and the bit of money we get stays in Canberra.

''We spend the money on welfare in Canberra. We're assisting people all the time.''

Mr Williams said the Lone Fathers Association receives 13,000 calls in the ACT annually.

''We don't close, we run 24 hours, people call us at all hours.

''If anyone has a problem with the way we run then they're welcome to come spend a day helping out and answer calls from people.''

But Ms Caulfield warned allowing the commercial trade to flourish risked breaking the current charitable recycling model.

''It's big business,'' she said.

''Allowing commercial operators to dominate recycling of used clothing means the next time there's a natural disaster and the community is in need, government would be purchasing from commercial companies for benevolent purposes.''

Ms Caulfield said education was required to prevent charities lending their name to commercial operators

''It affects every other charitable recycler by stripping the marketplace of donated goods and puts doubt in the public's mind.

''It's wrong to put doubt in the community's mind. The public has a right to know.''


  • Which charities actually recycle their clothes to the needy apart from the larger ones such as salvos, st vinnies etc? I didn't realise that there was a bulk market based on weight alone and not condition. Are there any smaller charities who would actually use my clean, washed, ironed, ready-to-sell donated goods for the purpose they were intended?

    Date and time
    January 08, 2013, 1:13AM
    • You have the big charities complaining about the huge amount of donated goods that are in their words "dumped" and the small charities making more money from their donated goods by selling to these organisations than they could by running a store. Instead shouldnt the big charities ask these same organisations to come by and collect their overflow...they could make more money which they could use for charitable purposes.

      Date and time
      January 08, 2013, 8:46AM
      • Excuse me but how are small charities/organisations like the lone fathers supposed to empty these bins themselves. Send out ESP come to a central area donated clothes, firstly they have to be able to afford to run a truck, pay a driver, pay rent to store this clothing and then either find a venue to sell and raise funds or find a venue and protocols to give it away.

        At least the clothing is being recycled and not filling our landfill, all you greenies in Canberra which would you prefer?

        The Salvos and St Vinnies, YMCA etc get donated thousands of items of clothing everyday, remember we are a - must consume - society, cant wear that outfit from last season. At the end of the day charities like the Salvos send a lot of donations to landfill, simply because they do not have the room to store them.

        Date and time
        January 08, 2013, 8:47AM
        • My sister was informed by a Salvo's store worker that donated clothes are not 'distibuted' to the needy, they are given vouchers to use for purchase of goods within a Salvo's store, her understanding was that donated goods were sorted for either sale or disposal. Enquiries at several other charity stores got the same or similar responses.

          Based on what I saw whilst volunteering at a St Vinnies store many high quality items are set aside by staff/volunteers for their own purchase (often at staff discount rates) before going into the store for sale.

          Date and time
          January 08, 2013, 11:12AM
          • What low lives these greedy, commercial, used, rag-trade businesses, who use the likes of the Lone Fathers, etc, to provide a respectable front for a measly 5 cents a kilo, are.

            Date and time
            January 08, 2013, 11:20AM
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