By Carl Sargeant:
In the main, Australians are a charitable bunch. We donate billions of dollars to not-for-profit organisations, more than 1 in 3 of us give gifts to non-government organisations and our volunteers rack up nearly a billion hours of unpaid work a year. However, while charity workers toil tirelessly to help the sick, poor and disadvantaged, their generous work is hampered by an avoidable nuisance – deciphering gifts from garbage.
Dealing with an inundation of spoiled foods, worn out clothing and otherwise damaged goods is a daily task for charity workers. These unusable or perished items place an unnecessary monetary and time burden on volunteers, and Rebecca Mawad of the Asylum Seekers Centre points out that, like any other organisation, they have to pay for and organise their own waste management. “When we found ourselves with nine old, rusty oil heaters this year we struggled to get rid of them. We called the local council and did several price comparisons for taking them to local landfills. Had we not eventually realised that we could take them to a scrap metal yard, we’d have had to pay $55 to get rid of these ‘donations’”.
While the strain it puts on volunteers should be enough to deter charity dumpers, there is an element to dumping that is even more concerning- the message it sends to recipients. “I sometimes fear that the message might be all too clear for our clients; this is what you are worth, you don’t deserve better than this,” said Ms Mawad. The disturbing notion that those within our community living at a disadvantage to the rest of society are worthy only of the discarded and surplus goods of the fortunate is a poor testament to an otherwise charitable and empathetic country, and an ominous sign for a nation on the cusp of receiving 12,000 of the world’s most desperately disadvantaged.
While Ms Mawad doesn’t consider dumping of unusable donations a malicious act and suggests that most dumpers are oblivious to the social implications of their offerings, donators need to be more conscious of the quality of goods they provide. “Obviously everyone has different standards for what is and is not good or useful, however looking at the goods we receive sometimes, the bar appears too low” she said.
While Australians continue to give generously to charities year on year, it’s high time we revolutionised how and what we give. So next time you donate goods to charity, ask yourself this question: Would these gifts be good enough for you and your family? If you can answer yes, carry on, but if the answer is no, then dispose of your trash appropriately and try again.