One man’s trash is NOT always another man’s treasure

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Oh I don’t know where to start with this one. So I’ll start at the beginning. My husband is from Ghana as my regular readers know. When we lived in Ghana we started a self-funded charity named for the joining of the two of us; Aussieghana Relief. We’ve always done small projects from the heart, funded from our own pockets and we’ve been happy with what we’ve achieved to date.

When we returned to Australia in 2011 we started sending containers of goods to Ghana, a combination of business and charity. The cost of shipping from here to there is $7000 and clearing at customs in Ghana is more than double that, so we need to supplement the charity with some form of income to make it work.

Anyhoo….when we started doing this, we did a shout out for items that people were no longer using. We always used the phrase “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” and we’ve been blessed with kind and generous donations of furniture, clothing, toys and many other useful items.

So, in addition to this, we often get donations of large quantities and we’ve always had the view that we will take it all, and if some can’t be used, then we will forward on, donate or trash as appropriate. When we made this offer, we figured people would still use common sense and generosity. Oh how wrong I was. Since when was another man’s treasure torn and dirty underwear, broken and used make up containers, stained and filthy bed linen and broken bits of everything possible under the sun? Just because people are in need, doesn’t make them any less worthy of nice things. Oh…breathe, Rae-Anne, breathe.

However sadly this isn’t exclusive to us and our little project. Our major charities in Australia are burdened daily with the excesses of our over-consuming culture. People dump everything in charity bins, I’d like to think with the intention that they reach those most in need, but the reality is quite different. Some charities have had to cease taking donations, or outsourcing the collection and distribution as it costs some of them in excess of $1,000,000 a year to dispose of the “donations” that we place in their bins and out front of their premises. Yes you read that right. I have it direct from the sources, and more than one of them. The stuff we dump is a continuous issue for them. It’s costing more than they can afford and it’s unfair.

So what happens when you donate to a charity bin? Well, good quality things are always welcomed, and are either used or sold in the shops to support their endeavours. The crap, the junk, the stuff we can’t be bothered taking responsibility for? It becomes their problem, their very expensive problem. Once my husband and I were given the opportunity to sort through a massive pile of these so called donations. About an hour into it I began to feel so much anger and disappointment in humanity. The rubbish and yes I use this word correctly, rubbish that people put into these bins is an absolute disgrace.

So how to stop this? First of all it begins with the consumer. Let’s stop buying crap, let’s buy things that last. Take a minute to think twice before bringing something into your home. I love the approach of the non-consumer advocate; use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without. Now this is obviously more achievable for some than others, but it’s a good principle to consider when purchasing “stuff”. Be mindful before handing over your cash/plastic – do you really need it?

Next, if we need to dispose of something, let’s take responsibility for our own stuff. Recycle if possible and if not, dispose of appropriately, either in our weekly rubbish collection, or if it’s too much, which is too often the case, order a hard rubbish collection or pay to have it taken away or put it in the dump.

For us, we are currently dealing with a full forty foot container of donations that we can’t use. It’s a time consuming and expensive exercise, as we load up our trailer one massive load of rubbish at a time, but one we wear as we keepย in mind the small differences our work makes to others.

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Our current project – cleaning out this container, it’s overwhelming but we will get there

When it comes to donating. I love my husband’s approach. Whenever we send things to Ghana, either in a container or ourselves, when we go, he goes through his belongings and I’ve heard him say more than once “I really like this, so I’m going to give it to someone”. It took me a while to get my head around it, as we are so used to donating when something no longer serves us, we tire of it, or it’s worn out. He has on many occasions asked me if I would like to give certain things to family members and I now no longer say “oh I like this” or “I’m still wearing it”. As he so wisely says, why not let somebody enjoy this as much as I do.

So next time you donate, ask yourself, would someone else love this too? Or is it time for me responsibly dispose of it.

Charities, the environment and your conscience will be cleaner and better for it.

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