Donna Bissessar stands next to a bathtub, toilet and other junk somebody dropped off illegally behind the Penny Savers thrift store she manages on July 18. (Tom Zillich photo)

COLUMN: Donating or dumping?

Columnist ML Burke champions thrifting this holiday season, urges responsible donations not dumping

I’m one of those people who love to go “thrifting,” a term coined by today’s youth who also love a bargain. I relied on thrift shops when I was raising my kids as a single parent, and since those days I still frequent thrift shops for bargains and hidden treasures. In fact, my necklace collection is threatening to overtake an entire wall resulting in the need to do some serious de-cluttering.

In my decades of thrifting, I think Delta has the best thrift stores in Metro Vancouver. Most are non-profits raising funds for their causes, although Talize — a large scale, well organized for-profit enterprise at 11930 88th Ave. in North Delta — has staff rather than volunteers. The eleven Talize stores in Canada each donate around $2,500 a year to the Make-a-Wish Foundation.

There is, however, a dilemma happening in the recycling culture that needs addressing. Most folks are responsible when donating their clothes and other usable items, but some are using the thrift shops, donation bins and non-profit pick-up services like Big Brothers as a free dumping opportunity. This is putting a huge financial burden on organizations as they have to first sort through reams of bags and boxes to find anything good or clean enough to sell and then pay to have the rest of it taken to the dump, which also adds to the growing landfill.

Talize’s manager, Jag Bish, said that seven to eight mattresses per week are dumped behind his North Delta store. This costs them $200-$300 a month to hire someone to take those mattresses to the dump, where they charge $15 per mattress unit (including box spring). People also dump drywall into his cardboard compactor.

(By the way, the City of Delta offers a coupon to Delta households for two free mattress drop-offs per year. It’s available at City Hall and at the North Delta Recreation Centre with valid ID.)

In South Delta we have four fabulous thrift stores. The first, the Delta Hospital Auxiliary Thrift Shop — also known as Ladner’s only department store — at 4816 Delta St. takes up three separate shops, offering household items, clothing and select furniture. The furniture store also hosts collectible events and becomes a Christmas store during the holidays.

Angie Smith, volunteer co-ordinator for Ladner’s three stores, says they bring in an impressive $1.1 million a year for Delta Hospital thanks to the 250+ dedicated volunteers who do the front-line work of sorting, fixing and selling. They have the lowest prices but also have an ongoing problem with people raiding their bins or discarding unsalable or non-recyclable items after hours.

Tsawwassen offers three different thrifting experiences. The Hospice Cottage Charity Shoppe, located at 1521 56th St., is the priciest and supports Delta Hospice Society and its palliative care programs. KinVillage has the popular Unique Boutique, located in the seniors’ centre at 5430 10th Ave., and DYSL WearHouse Thrift Store supports youth in Delta, at 1308 56th St.

For those who are using these stores as a free dumping ground, please stop. You are hurting the people these organizations are raising the funds for. If you are discarding or donating something, maybe ask yourself, “Would I buy that?”

Meanwhile, have yourself a jolly time thrifting.

ML Burke retired from the health sector to work on issues such as affordable housing. She sits on the Delta Seniors Planning Team, the City of Delta’s Community Liveability Advisory Committee and the BC Seniors Advocate’s Council of Advisors.

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