CORNWALL, Ontario - It doesn't happen all the time, but often enough the Agape Centre in Cornwall finds itself the recipient of garbage, instead of much-needed donations.
Johanne Gauthier, operations manager at Agape - a local food bank and soup kitchen - said she can recall one instance in particular that left her irked.
"The other day one of our staff members discovered an ice cream cone literally stuck to a pair of jeans when unpacking a bag of clothes donated to the Agapè Centre," she said. "It was not my definition of a gently-used item."
Agape relies on donations from the community for everything from clothes to books and toys for children.
The items are sold in Agape's thrift shop, which raises money for the agency.
But the return on the donations plummets when one factors in the amount of money the charity has to spend every year in disposing of what is otherwise junk and unwanted items.
"A lot of people are not aware that our garbage disposal fees for the last year were over $12,000," said Gauthier. "This does not even include the other costs we incur with staff to sort through items we cannot sell in our store."
It's not a new problem. Charity bins throughout the city are often full of worthless items that are more suited to the trash heap than the donation basket.
Garbage in donation bins has led many charities across Canada to move their bins inside.
And it's costing money in the process. Two years ago Toronto began charging charities – like the Salvation Army - fees to dispose of items in donation bins, because much of the contents included garbage and household waste.
The other problems, said Gauthier, are vandals and Mother Nature.
"If you place your donation outside of a bin at one of our locations, it will probably be stolen or damaged by the weather," she said. "People rifle through stuff outside of our bins on a regular basis."
Agape is compensated for soiled and ripped clothing even if it cannot sell them. Some organizations provide Agape with bags labeled “recycled” with masking tape which are full of those types of clothing.
More information on how, when and where to donate items to Agape can be found here.
"When deciding to give things to Agape for resell, it’s best to think in terms of 'Will it sell in the store?' rather than 'Can someone use this?'" said Gauthier. "We get a lot of things in good condition that unfortunately, do not sell in the store. The end result is that we have to spend money and time getting things to the dump taking away from the budget for food."