27 August 2021

Donations going to dump: charities urge locals to pause their 'Marie Kondo' plans during COVID-19 lockdown

| Lottie Twyford
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Sandie Parkes from The Green Shed

Sandie Parkes from The Green Shed is asking people to hold onto their unwanted household items until the organisation reopens after COVID-19 lockdown. Photo: Jamila Toderas.

As the COVID-19 lockdown wears on, the urge to ‘Marie Kondo’ our rooms, cluttered storage spaces and even our lives is inevitable.

But The Green Shed and Vinnies are pleading with Canberrans to simply store any unwanted items they might come across in their decluttering missions, rather than sending everything to landfill.

Unlike the lockdown in 2020, The Green Shed has closed both its shops as well as its sorting facility sheds at Mugga Way and Mitchell. It’s the first time the facilities have ever had to close.

In a post on its Facebook page, the owners asked people to resist the temptation to order a skip bin or rubbish removal service because everything will simply go to landfill.

“We promise to gladly accept all your treasures that are piling up as people find ways to amuse themselves in lockdown as soon as we possibly can,” read the online post.

READ ALSO Surviving (another) lockdown: Dr Thewes on finding routine, home-schooling and limiting screen time

The Green Shed co-owner Sandie Parkes explained that during last year’s lockdown, The Green Shed remained open, but it has made the decision to close during the current outbreak.

“Last year’s lockdown was actually the busiest period we’ve ever experienced because everyone was at home having a clean out,” she says.

Being busy like that again would have felt like too much of a risk, explains Sandie, so the organisation decided to do the right thing for its staff and the community at large.

“The staff who worked in the sheds found themselves incredibly overrun and we had to bring on more staff,” she says.

Some staff were already forced into quarantine after The Green Shed Mitchell was listed as a COVID-19 exposure site, but thankfully it doesn’t seem to have spread at the shed.

Items on shelves in Vinnies store

While Vinnies shops are closed, people are being asked not to dump items outside them. Photo: Vinnies.

Despite the obvious impact to business, Sandie is glad The Green Shed has closed this time for safety.

“We know people are still stuck at home and having clean-outs – me included – and we know there isn’t any option right now for this stuff to go anywhere where it will be reused,” she says. “Even the tip is shut.”

But Sandie reminds Canberrans that The Green Shed will be open again soon and everything can be brought in then.

“We will be back up and running,” she says.

Like The Green Shed, all secondhand and op-shops have closed in line with ACT Government and NSW Government public health directives.

Like Sandie, Vinnies Canberra Goulburn CEO Barnie van Wyk is asking people not to dump their unwanted items out the front of their stores during this time.

READ ALSO What I’ve learned from lockdown 2.0

Vinnies stores have experienced a significant amount of dumping since the lockdown commenced two weeks ago, with the Tuggeranong, Belconnen and Gungahlin shops the most affected.

“Donations outside our shops are exposed to the elements and also to people rummaging through donations, creating a COVID-19 transmission risk,” says Barnie.

“Unfortunately, these exposed items cannot be used safely and end up in landfill.”

Like Sandie, he encourages people to hold onto their unwanted items so they can be gratefully received post-lockdown when the shops reopen.

The Vinnies helpline (13 18 12) remains open and all calls for assistance can be directed to available volunteers in the region.

The ACT Government announced yesterday that Canberrans who require urgent waste disposal will also be able to access waste drop-off services. These will be limited and a range of safety measures will be put in place.

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This is a very misleading article – the ‘big’ charities (Green Shed isnt actually a charity as such), may have ceased processing donations but there are of plenty of smaller local charity who rely on local donations for ACT based needs during the pandemic. I gave a donation of clothes to a very grateful church-based local church group a couple of days ago for distribution to people sleeping rough in Canberra. The Green Shed’s quote in the piece “we know there isn’t any option right now for this stuff to go anywhere where it will be reused” is particularly unhelpful

Insinuating that such gifts will end up in landfill rather than highlight where people CAN usefully donate is making the work of these charities more difficult by putting people off donating altogether.

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