How a charity shop can save more waste from landfill than you might imagine

jenni from can't swing a cat guest blogger on zero waste weekI’m delighted to welcome Jenni – one of our blogging Ambassadors  – as a guest writer today.

On a mission to save up for her first house, Jenni blogs about being thrifty, saving money, and reducing waste.

She loves rummaging through charity shops, upcycling old furniture and doing what she can to be more sustainable. You can find out more by visiting her blog, Can’t Swing a Cat.

Over to Jenni…

Since I started volunteering at a charity shop a few months ago, it’s really hit me just how beneficial these places are for the environment. In fact, each charity shop saves approximately 34 tonnes of textiles from landfill annually and by reusing and recycling things that would otherwise go in the bin, these thrifty national treasures help to reduce CO2 emissions by approximately 3.7million tons per year.

When it comes to reducing waste while volunteering, my charity shop manager has been a great source of inspiration. On my first day she explained how she tries as much as possible to avoid throwing things away. Sometimes she’ll sell small bags of buttons after saving them from badly stained cardigans, and other times she’ll re-purpose damaged curtains that she knows someone will be able to turn into a set of cushion covers. She saves so many scruffy donations from ending up in the bin.

Now, every time I have a rummage through a bag of donations and find something that initially doesn’t seem like it’s worthy of a place on the charity shop shelves, I pause and ask myself if it has any other uses. Can any aspect of it be saved? We still receive a lot of CDs, many of which are badly scratched or placed in damaged or incomplete cases. But this problem can soon be fixed by pairing the good CDs and covers with intact cases. There are of course other ways damaged CDs can be recycled though, as this Zero Waste Week blog post proves.

No one wants to drink out of a chipped mug, but if a particularly eye-catching or unique one is donated, there’s certainly no reason why it can’t be used to hold stationery or even flowers. We will of course sell it for much cheaper than it would be if it was immaculate and we’ll make sure the buyer is aware of any defects. If such an item doesn’t sell in the shop but is particularly unique we might pop it on eBay to reach a wider audience.

If a donation remains unsold for a certain period of time it doesn’t necessarily have to go in the bin and can still make money for the charity. Clothes, shoes, and books can all be sold on to rag collectors who will take the items away to be recycled.

Although I try to save things from the bin as much as possible, I think it’s equally vital for charity shop volunteers to use their initiative and throw away anything that really isn’t worthy of a place in the shop. We’re talking charity shops, not scrap yards, after all. I really believe it’s important to a bit ruthless when sorting through donations. If a donated t-shirt looks somewhat past it, sometimes it’s best to recycle it without a second thought. That way space can be saved for items that are more likely to be snapped up and given a new home.


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Rachelle Strauss


  1. Kathryn on August 12, 2015 at 9:32 pm

    This is awesome! So glad to see the shop trying to reuse everything.

    • Mrs Green on August 13, 2015 at 8:42 am

      Thanks Kathryn; I learned a lot from the guest post and feel so much more enthused about supporting my local charity shops!

  2. Colleen Black on August 13, 2015 at 6:23 pm

    Great post! I miss the charity shops in England – don’t get them as much in SA.

    • Rachelle Strauss on August 14, 2015 at 7:04 am

      Thanks Colleen; what a shame you don’t have so many of them over there. I’d be lost without them!

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