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Thrift stores see donation influx, includes trash

Updated: Jun. 3, 2021 at 9:45 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Before you declutter your closet and donate, some thrift stores want you to do a double take.

St. Vincent de Paul thrift stores have seen low-quality donations pile up throughout the pandemic, according to John Cobb, a processing manager. He said the problem is reaching a tipping point right now, as examples of “trash” include chemicals, overused items and broken toys.

In turn, thrift stores are paying a price. “We’re having higher trash costs,” he said. “We’re spending more time properly recycling, and when we get hazardous materials like household chemicals that aren’t properly packed, old paints, tires [and] batteries, we have to pay money to recycle these items, and that is something that does hurt our organization.”

Cobb explained, roughly half of the income generated by St. Vincent thrift stores fund the organization’s nonprofit programs.

Laurie Ringquist, a manager at the Dane County Humane Society thrift store, said while she receives junk donations, the problem isn’t “excessive.”

The Goodwill of South Central Wisconsin wrote to NBC15, in part, that it is “happy to accept all the generous donations from community members.”

Goodwill spokesperson David Johnson added, “We sort and sell the best of what is donated. Items not sold or not saleable in our stores are recycled or baled and sold as salvage.”

At Agrace Thrift Store, area manager Katie O’Grady said donations peaked early on in the pandemic, and items were mostly high quality.

“When [people] were stuck at home and more and more things were closed down, the opportunity was there to really clean out quarters that maybe hadn’t been cleaned out in a while,” she said.

“When [they’re] home they’re making fast decisions of what they can bring to us,” Cobb said. “Sometimes it’s easier just to stick those things into the bag.”

Now, as more people return to the office, Agrace staff said the need is changing.

“[We’re] seeing a lot of people who are young professionals, maybe even starting a new career or haven’t had to purchase work clothes in a while, having worked from home for a year.” O’Grady said. “I think the increase we’re seeing is more from people who are purchasing those work clothes now that they’re heading back to their offices or other workplaces.”

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