LOS ANGELES — A brown loafer with a sole that’s falling off, luggage with holes and missing wheels, a broken toaster oven and a stained lamp shade are just some items Goodwill has received in its donation bins.
It’s all junk, and hauling away the items that can’t be sold in its retail stores costs the organization money to haul away.
What You Need To Know
- Goodwill Southern California has spent $2 million per year for the past five years in trash expenses, with the exception of 2020
- The money spent on junk haul away costs could have gone toward more job training programs
- Goodwill Southern California helps divert 130 million pounds of goods from landfills each year
- Goodwill of Orange County says it has not experienced the same junk donation problem
Goodwill Southern California said it spends millions of dollars each year in trash costs.
Eric Hart, the Atwater Village location's store manager, said they've been getting a lot of inventory lately.
"[I] think the pandemic had people at home, and it gave people some time to sort through their items and decide how they can clean out their house," he said.
Therefore, as Hart said, there is no lack of donations. All of the items need to be checked and sorted, and Hart said the organization has started to notice "a growing problem is kind of what we call wish-cycling."
As Hart explained, wish-cycling is when the donor wishes and hopes someone can use their used goods.
"Realistically, a lot of stuff that we get is junk or trash that we can't sell," he said.
For example, Hart held up a white dish-drying rack that had a large crack in it. It was also missing the countertop drainer.
"It's broken, it's dirty. Someone isn't going to spend their money when they can get a new one at Dollar Tree," he said.
Hart added that the disk rack is unsellable in Goodwill's retail stores. Other donations Hart has seen come in that can't be sold are "literal bags of trash." He also said that Tupperware with missing lids had come in — which nobody likes.
"That's why you're getting rid of it," Hart said.
Broken furniture, broken electronics, broken luggage and more are also on the list of unsellable donations.
"Broken everything," as Hart puts it.
Hart noted that the nonprofit has to spend money to haul away the junk.
"We've spent $2 million a year for the past five years in trash expenses," he said.
That's with the exception of 2020 when Goodwill was closed.
Hart said that all that money could have gone toward job training programs for thousands of people: "People with disabilities, veterans, at-risk youth, formerly incarcerated people, and homeless."
Goodwill Southern California also helps divert 130 million pounds of goods from landfills each year. But donated junk equals more trash.
Hart said it's kind of a conflict for him.
"We love how generous our donors are, and we want them to continue to donating. But I think the solution would be to just ask yourself, 'Is this sellable? Would I buy this myself?'"
According to Goodwill of Orange County, they have not experienced the same type of junk donation problem experienced by several other Goodwill locations throughout the country — even with donation numbers going to pre-pandemic levels. So far this year, Goodwill of Orange County has received about 1.1 million donated items, which is similar to the donation numbers in 2019.
At a location in Costa Mesa, a man came by to see whether they'd accept an old office chair.
"Otherwise, I'd have to dispose of it because I had the responsibility of buying something," said Jim, who didn't want to provide his last name. "I should have the responsibility of getting rid of it."
As it turned out, Jim won't have the responsibility of disposing of his donation. The chair is staying and will be heading to Goodwill's retail stores.
"Hopefully it can be put to good use," he said.
And when it's sold, the money will help Goodwill continue their job programs, which is what Hart said is such an important part of what the organization provides.
"We see the change that it makes to their lives," Hart said. "And we just want to continue doing that."
Goodwill Southern California served 28,812 community members with employment services in 2019 and 17,078 in 2020 (the number was lower due to the pandemic).
Hart said that the next time you want to drop off a donation, just remember sometimes another man's trash is not another man's treasure.
Hart also reminds donors of some of the items they cannot donate and Goodwill will not accept: used auto parts, baby cribs, strollers, car seats, paint, mattresses and appliances.
A complete list of what you can and cannot donate (in addition to what would be considered trash or unsellable items) can be found here.