5 Items Charity Shops Want You To Stop Donating

Unsellable items cost charities thousands to dispose of each year. Here's what to do with your stuff instead.

Had a clear out during lockdown? You’re not the only one.

Charity shops have been inundated with donations since reopening their doors, but sadly, not all items are suitable for the shop floor. Disposing of unsuitable items cost charities “up to hundreds of thousands of pounds a year,” so it’s a good idea to call your local shop first, before turning up with armfuls of goods.

“With charity shops in such popular demand right now and storage space in shops limited, we are asking the public to be mindful of which items they donate,” the Charity Retail Association told HuffPost UK.

“A general rule of thumb is to consider whether the items you are donating are something that you think somebody else would be happy to buy.”

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The UK has a wide variety of charity shops, including those focusing on books, electrical items, and furniture. For most items, it’s a case of finding a shop that sells the items being donated, the association said. You can use this online directory to search for specific charity shops in your area.

However, there’s a small range of items charity shops aren’t able to sell, so they’d rather you didn’t donate them at all. These include:

  1. Single items of anything comes in a pair. Most charity shops will happily accept a pair of good quality shoes or gloves. However, a single shoe or single glove is not going to be something they can resell or that someone else can reuse. It helps staff and volunteers sorting through donations to place an elastic band around items that come in a pair, so they don’t get separated.

  2. Upholstered items, such as sofas, without fire labels. The law requires shops to make sure they only sell upholstered furniture with fire safety labels attached. If the fire safety label is missing, a charity shop simply can’t resell the item and must pay to dispose of it.

  3. Items that are heavily stained or soiled. As well as being unsellable, heavily soiled items can contaminate other saleable donations. Finding a contaminated item among donations can be an unpleasant experience for staff and volunteers who are sorting through items, as you can imagine.

  4. Faulty or broken electrical items. Whilst not all charity shops accept electrical items, many do if they are in working order. However, charity shops are generally unable to accept electrical items that are broken due to safety risks.

  5. Safety or prescription items. Due to safety concerns, it’s generally not possible to resell items such as secondhand car seats or bike helmets, as the purchaser will have no way of knowing whether the items have been involved in a crash, resulting in hidden damage. Equally, charity shops are not able to resell prescription items such as glasses.

What to do with these items instead

Items that charity shops can’t accept can instead be taken to a local authority reuse and recycling centre, the Charity Retail Association said. You should be able to find one closest to you on your local council’s website.

Some charity shops will accept clothes with fixable damage (such as a broken zip), but damaged clothes that need more work or can’t be donated can be recycled at local textile recycling facilities.

Alternatively, if you’ve got an item that needs a little TLC before it’s usable – such as a stained chair that needs reupholstering – you can save it from landfill by advertising it via online market places, such as Gumtree or Facebook. Just remember to be clear and honest about any faults before the item is collected.

For electrical items, when you buy a new item, the retailer should accept your old item as part of the retailer take-back scheme.

If you’re in any doubt about whether an item can be donated, contact the charity shop you want to donate to. Shops can also advise you of any special arrangements currently in place to handle high volumes in donations.