Charity drop-offs aren't trash dumps Wholly unusable donations pose problems for collection centers.

July 10, 1996

WHILE IT MAY be more blessed to give than to receive, the gift is also in the eye of the beholder.

In that mangled maxim is the dilemma of the various nonprofit thrift shops, clothing centers and second-hand stores, which rely on public donations of castoffs for their stock.

Some charities are worried about the increase in unusable clothing and household items that are dumped on their doorsteps, and which they must pay to have hauled away to the landfill. Trash collection and dumping fees have significantly increased, making this longtime minor problem a major concern.

Westminster Rescue Mission takes a load to the Carroll County dump almost every day, at $45 a ton. "You would not believe the garbage and trash people drop off here," says superintendent David Danberry. Goodwill Industries in Westminster pays $120 a month for trash collection. The charities hope for a small profit from their stores to fund other projects, including job training for the disadvantaged who help with the thrift shop operations. With more unusable items to sort through and dump, that cuts into the marginal budgets.

Some unusable donations stem from good intentions: furniture and housewares dropped at a center that only handles clothing, or broken appliances that cannot be fixed for reuse (an increasingly frequent problem.) Or serviceable clothing ruined by overnight rains that can't be economically cleaned and dried.

Then there's the ill-intentioned dumper, looking for a way to avoid the inconvenience and cost of taking unwanted items to the landfill. The sight of an unguarded Dumpster encourages such thoughtless behavior, along with nighttime scavenging by others, that can turn the collection site into a neighborhood nuisance. That's why the Westminster Goodwill is building a fenced area for its truck; even locked bins were broken into repeatedly.

This being the high season for yard sales and house-cleaning, it's an excellent idea to help these charitable operations to redistribute your useful but unwanted goods. But it's equally important to find out in advance what each center can (and cannot) accept, and how to best deliver these items so that your trash can truly be turned into treasure.

Pub Date: 7/10/96

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