Goodwill stores: Please don’t donate trash


Many donated items are suitable only for a landfill, which costs Goodwill money

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Your good intentions for Goodwill stores might be part of a problem.

As many people get into spring cleaning, the thrift store chain ends up spending a large amount of money on trash that can’t be recycled or re-sold.

“I think we stand out in the country as having really, really good donors who are very thoughtful and we’re grateful,” said Goodwill spokesperson Dale Emanuel. But Emanuel said garbage still gets mixed into donations for local Goodwill stores.

“A big one, because it costs a lot of money to dispose of it — is chemicals. Under your sink, in your bathroom, in your kitchen or garage — we have to call hazmat,” said Emanuel.

Emanuel said nearly $3 million were spent last year in fees for items that had to be taken to landfills.

“We don’t repair. We did in yester-year, we did repair couches and whatnot, upholstery. We don’t do that anymore, that’s not what we train people to do. That’s not what’s needed in this marketplace,” she said. “So ripped up and soiled furniture is something we don’t want. We don’t take mattresses and box springs.”

Items that sit on shelves for weeks at discounted prices in regular Goodwill stores eventually end up at Goodwill’s Northeast Portland Airport outlet where they are offered for sale for just three hours.

“Then everything rolls back to our collections area where we work with about 60 salvagers and recyclers who take those items that nobody else wanted,” said Emanuel. “This is one of the ways last year we kept 40 million pounds out of the landfill. Nobody wanted those on our retail stores, including the outlet, but our salvagers and recyclers did and it helped them sustain their businesses as well.”

Emanuel encourages donors to think twice before dropping unwanted items off at a Goodwill store.

“I think it’s not a bad idea to ask yourself before you put it in the box or bag ‘would I buy it in the condition which I’m giving it?’ and if the answer is no, possibly someone else won’t, either,” she said.

Emanuel said more money will go toward things like free job services for the people Goodwill helps if less can be spent on landfill fees.

And if Goodwill won’t take an item, there are still other charities that might.

“Seventy-seven percent of more than 176 million pounds collected were kept out of the landfill and that’s thanks to an awful lot of employees.”

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