Pre-Sort Your Donations Before Charity Stores Reopen

Pre-Sort Your Donations Before Charity Stores Reopen
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If your boredom-fighting activities during the first few weeks of sheltering in place included major decluttering efforts, you know what the later weeks have meant: Having to look at piles of all your ready-to-purge donations sitting around your house, waiting for charity stores and donation centres to reopen.

But when those donation centres do reopen, there’s going to be a lot of sorting to do—and social distancing measures and other accommodations may mean it will take longer for staffers and volunteers to get items onto the sales floor.

While you may not want to wait another month or two to drop off your donations, there is a small action you can take to make life easier for your donation centre of choice once you do: Pre-sort your stuff.

You don’t need to be meticulous. But put your housewares and hard items in one box or bag, and your soft items like curtains and clothing into another container. While you’re at it, sort out the stuff that you know won’t be resold.

Usually, you want to consider a version of the Golden Rule when you donate items to nonprofits: Only donate items that are in good-enough condition that you would want to buy them yourself.

And while you should absolutely leave soiled and unsanitary items out of your donation bin—and follow store-specific donation guidelines to a T—you may be able to recycle some damaged fabric items via your charity store.

Take Goodwill Industries International as one example: In 2019 alone, Goodwill diverted nearly four billion pounds (1.8 billion kg) of donated goods from landfills, a spokesperson told me this week.

Those billions of kilos can come from a variety of sources. Items stay on the sales floor for a certain amount of time before being transferred to a Goodwill outlet store to be sold by the pound. Then, items that remain after their stay at the outlet store are often sold in bundles to a bulk reseller or to a recycler who transforms them into insulation, rags or other material.

But in the initial sorting phase, not everything makes it out to the sales floor. Some items get diverted to recycling or bulk sale right away.

Say for example you donate a set of sheets. They’re clean—no rips or stains—but the elastic on the fitted sheet is shot. Those sheets will probably immediately be set aside for recycling.

Now say you’re reviewing your donation pile and remember the reason you wanted to get rid of those sheets—that crappy elastic. Maybe you can cut the sheets up to use for cleaning at home, but honestly, you might not need an entire bedsheet worth of rags.

But if you mark them for recycling and separate them from the rest of your donations, they’ll probably get recycled and have a new life in another form. And you’ll help the sorting process go a bit quicker at your local warehouse in the bargain.

If you’re not sure whether your donation centre take items designated for recycling and it isn’t specified on its website, finding out is as easy as calling and asking, “Do you accept textiles for recycling?” There’s a good chance the answer is yes.

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