‘That has a cost’: Why thrift shops don’t accept everything

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(ABC4) — Clothes, shoes, accessories, books, video games. Donating these gently used items to thrift stores after spring cleaning is a good way to keep them from piling up in a landfill.

But while thrift stores will take a lot, they won’t take everything. And knowing what they do and don’t take is important for saving organizations time and money.

“We try to really focus on keeping items out of the landfill, but all of that has a cost if we do need to dispose of it, so we really try to focus on those usable, gently used, donated items,” says Shanna Endow, Retail Systems Development Manager at Easter Seals Goodwill.


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Endow said Goodwill stores accept such items as new or gently used clothing, shoes, accessories, household decor, knick-knacks, utensils, plates, small appliances, toys, furniture and bed frames. They also take DVDs, video games, books, and even cars.

“We work through a vendor that helps us with the title and logistics of car donations, so they could just reach out to their local Goodwill and we could provide the phone number and help them take care of that,” she explained.

SAN FRANCISCO – OCTOBER 14: A Thrift Town customer browses for merchandise October 14, 2008 in San Francisco, California. As the economy continues to falter, thrift stores are seeing a surge in business as Ameicans look for ways to save money. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO – OCTOBER 14: A Thrift Town customer browses for merchandise October 14, 2008 in San Francisco, California. As the economy continues to falter, thrift stores are seeing a surge in business as Ameicans look for ways to save money. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO – OCTOBER 14: A Thrift Town customer browses for merchandise October 14, 2008 in San Francisco, California. As the economy continues to falter, thrift stores are seeing a surge in business as Ameicans look for ways to save money. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO – OCTOBER 14: Thrift Town customers shop for clothes October 14, 2008 in San Francisco, California. As the economy continues to falter, thrift stores are seeing a surge in business as Ameicans look for ways to save money. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO – OCTOBER 14: A price tag is seen on a sweater at a Thrift Town thrift store October 14, 2008 in San Francisco, California. As the economy continues to falter, thrift stores are seeing a surge in business as Ameicans look for ways to save money. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO – OCTOBER 14: A Thrift Town customer shops for t-shirts October 14, 2008 in San Francisco, California. As the economy continues to falter, thrift stores are seeing a surge in business as Ameicans look for ways to save money. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

As long as that list seems, the list of items that Goodwill stores won’t take is just as long.

“We know it’s sometimes hard to say no thank you to donations, but there are a few things that we, unfortunately, can’t take, and that would be mattresses. We can’t take hazardous waste materials. We don’t take cribs or car seats due to safety,” Endow said.


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In addition, the organization can’t accept tires, older TVs or large appliances such as refrigerators, washers, dryers, or hot water heaters “just because we can’t guarantee those are safe and in useable condition for resale,” Endow explained.

“If something is broken, we don’t have the staff to fix items, so we, unfortunately, can’t accept broken items or heavily damaged or dirty items,” she added.

But what happens to those items when they are donated?

“Those are some of the items that we would, unfortunately, have to dispose of if we couldn’t recycle,” Endow said.

She said the organization would like to be able to sell the donated items it receives in order to fund its programs.


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If an item doesn’t sell in stores, it will get a second chance to be sold in one of the company’s Goodwill outlet stores.

“If they are broken or damaged when we receive them, we do recycle as an organization over 8 million pounds a year,” Endow states. However, disposing of items that cannot be recycled costs Goodwill money for garbage collection costs.

Endow urges people to contact their local Goodwill store with any questions about donatable items.

“We can either give you some guidance on that or potentially provide contact information for places that you can dispose of that, but I think sometimes it just helps to know what we do and don’t accept,” she said.

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