Nonprofits Say We're Donating Too Much Junk

The Salvation Army of Southern California said it spends about $700,000 a year getting rid of junk.goodwil

NBC Universal, Inc.

We've all been clearing out clutter while bound to our homes this past year, and nonprofits say they've received more donated goods than ever. But it also comes at a huge cost to them, because some people are donating junk. The I-Team found out how big the problem is and what you need to know before donating your used goods. 

As we clear out our closets, many of us drop off our used stuff at donation sites like Goodwill. 

"Whenever we have things we aren't wearing anymore, we bring them here," said donor Maureen Meyer.

Goodwill wants your hand-me-downs, because they sell them in their stores and use that money to help people-in-need find jobs. But the I-Team learned our donations are costing Goodwill, too. That's because some of our donations are basically junk. 

"While we are grateful and appreciate the donations and the generosity of our donors every day, some of the donations we get, we are not able to resell," said Pauline Starr with Goodwill.

Goodwill of Southern California told the I-Team it spends $2 million a year getting rid of junk donations. 

"Two million dollars a year in costs for removing trash would help people find jobs and train people," said Starr. 

The Salvation Army of Southern California said it spends about $700,000 a year getting rid of junk.

So how can you help out? The National Council of Nonprofits says it's simple: before you donate something, ask yourself if you'd buy it. 

"If the condition is too poor, if it's not something you'd put on yourself, then it's something you might want to think about doing something else with,” said Rick Cohen with the National Council of Nonprofits. 

He also says people should avoid donating items like broken furniture, outdated electronics, bed pillows, and hazardous waste. You might think that by donating these items you're keeping them out of the landfill, but you're not. If a charity can't resell them, they often have to haul them to the dump, and that ends up costing the nonprofit you're trying to help. 

"It's a matter of respecting the person you're trying to help," said Cohen. "And you want to make sure they're receiving something that's in a usable condition."

Goodwill says it tries to avoid landfills, and sells a lot of unusable goods to commodity brokers instead. It estimates this helps keep 130 million pounds out of landfills. But still, they could use your help. 

Contact Us