Clothing bins: Good charity or good business?

October 23, 2009 at 11:40 am 1 comment

mfe+donating+old+clothes5_0

Did you know that a large amount of the clothing bins placed throughout this country are run by a private business, SaveMart? “But I thought the clothes go to charity?” I hear you say. Not entirely true… Only some of the profit this business makes go to NZ charities at the end of the day.

Let’s debate the in’s and out’s of this for a short while:

A. PROFITABILITY

Renting, running and staffing 10 charity stores selling used clothing is a costly endevour. For this reason, many charities have chosen to partner with Save Mart, handing over their bins, closing their op-shops and letting them run the whole process. A representative from Save Mart I spoke to recently confirmed this and advised me that through their professionally run shops, the charities in question make more funds for their organisation now, than when they ever did collecting and running shops themselves. Save Mart makes more money selling the clothes than a lot of smaller shops ever could, due to a larger customer base, more experience pricing and moving items.

B. ABUSE

- It’s inevitable, you put a bin on the side of the road and some goons will put rubbish in it. Clothing bins are a magnet for messiness and councils regularly deal with complaints in regards to clothing bins, much like this incident in the South Auckland region.
– A large amount of people tend to use the bins their own personal ‘ rag recycling’ drop off point, meaning a large amount of the clothing gained from these bins is unsaleable.
– Bins are regularly targetted by thieves, hence why the company does not publish lists of where the bins are located, in an attempt to at least make it a bit more of a mission for these criminals to find their next target.
Save Mart has to deal with the associated costs of maintaining the cleanliness and maintenance of the above, a factor not many people consider. I don’t envy them!

C. TRANSPARENCY

When you are putting clothes into the recycling bin or into the bags left at your doorstep, who do you think they are going to? Do you think they are being directly given to someone who can use them, or are you aware they are being onsold? Are you ok with them being onsold? Do you even care?

A large amount of people are shocked when they hear that 100% of the profits of these clothing sales do not go to a charity. Some might say that the clothes going into these bins essentially line another business’s pocket, in addition to sustaining their corporate social responsibility project, all under the guise of collecting for charity.

Do you think these kind of businesses need to be more transparent about this at the drop off site and in their marketing materials, or are people responsible for doing their own due diligence when they put things in there?

D. SUSTAINABLE BUSINESS

Potential transparency issues aside, one might say that this business is a great example of sustainable business. They provide a valid recycling service to the community, support charities and also deliver clothing at low cost to those who might never be able to afford it.

E. WHO CARES?

Since beginning DonateNZ, I have found most people follow a similar pattern in regards to the things they don’t need. It goes like this…

A.¬†“Hoard for as long as possible (“I might need it one day”)
B. “Eeek I need to get rid of it by X date (I’m moving/need the room/cleaning up”)
C. Take it away ASAP, don’t care who it is just take it”.

This means, that a large amount of people don’t even care who their used clothes go to – they know that at some point a charity benefits and that is enough for them. One might say the convenience of having a quick, easy solution (whatever it is), far outweighs any requirement to know the “who, whats and whys” of who is collecting them.

However there are a large amount of people out there who do care and always have. The number of people who feel in this manner are increasing as the concern for the environment and its sustainability grows. These people my be a little perturbed to hear the fact stated at the beginning of this blog.

TO SUMMARISE….

I’ve deliberately tried to maintain a neutral stance in this matter, it’s up to you to make your own decision based on this information. Do you…

- Support Save Mart, who does make profit both for itself and the charities it supports, Рby putting clothes into their bins, which are conveniently located throughout the country?

- Or do you donate to smaller stores, such as hospice shops, who sell them with 100% of profit going back to the organisation, but struggle to do so ever due to huge running costs?

- Or consider passing your clothes through DonateNZ to a charity who can give them to someone who can use them, as opposed to reselling them. We have wishes for clothing made by community organisations, which are regularly updated by charities. See the latest ones here. By matching up what you have with someone that needs it, you can save that person tens, hundreds, even thousands of dollars as it means they do not have to go out and buy it. With technologies around like DonateNZ, this kind of smart exchanging is a reality now. It takes being a little more proactive with your old things, but is a lot more beneficial all round in the long run.

It’s your choice overall, you have the facts now, just promise me you do donate them, rather than dumping them!

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Gareth Robins  |  October 23, 2009 at 12:08 pm

    I never really thought about the logistics of running the clothing bins. I can understand why clothes are sold rather than given after reading what potentially happens to the bins. After reading this article my opinion of using the bins has changed somewhat. Since the clothes are no longer of value to me, I don’t think that anyone else should profit off them, and prefer that they go to a worthy recipient. Clothing bins are a convenient way for ‘dump and forget’. Trademe is too hard, my friends dont want my old clothes, so DonateNZ might just be the answer.

    I think there’s a difference with kids clothes. Since having two small sprogs, we’ve discovered the baby clothes black market. My little girl is given clothes from three older friends and in turn we pass on her old clothes to another couple with a younger baby.

    Reply

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