Charity and the misuse of plastic

16 September 2014
Last weekend I was walking to the train station. It was a beautiful sunny afternoon and I was on my way to visit a friend. My joyful walk was interrupted by a billowing pink form moving across the street. It was a plastic bag that had escaped from a mailbox put there by a charity clothes collection. It was not the only bag that I encountered on the walk to the station. I picked up five bags! It was disheartening especially with the proximity of this street to a river. Not to mention the grumpy mood these wandering bags put me into.

The clothing charity company, like other charities, has good intentions. They want to take unwanted clothes and sell them on for money that will be donated to those in need. The plastic bag creates ease and convenience so people like me will participate. All they ask is that you put your clothes into the bag and leave on the door step for collection. I only walked along one street that day and I wondered how many other streets had pink plastic bags floating about that had the potential of ending up in the waterways close by.

I give away clothes frequently and I know a plastic bag is not necessary.

“Overall 525,000,000 bags are delivered across Britain annually, or 2,625 tonnes of them. Yet only 3% of bags are filled and left out on collection day. As a result, 509 million bags or over 2,500 tonnes are not used for their intended purpose." Source

As I sat on the train with a big ball of plastic bags, stuffed into my handbag it got me thinking about charities and the misuse of plastic.

There was a recent charity drive by a group in the CBD. Each year I give money to this group and take away a little pin (made of plastic!) that ends up sitting with pins I bought from previous years. But this year I decided to not take the pin and left my money only. The man was baffled and was looking through his paraphernalia to give me something, anything. I explained that I did not need anything in return. He straightened up and smiled at me, thanked me for my donation and I went on my way.

There are many charities that ploy a donation with the promise of pens, hats, fake noses, bags/pins, wrist bracelets, toys, sweets...the list goes on. If we keep going at this rate we will need just as many charities raising money to deal with the pollution as a result of our thoughtless choices. I don't mean to come across as attacking charities for their hard work and dedication. I simply think there is a better way and ultimately this also falls to us, the people who donate.

Image from
Truth is, the tokens would probably end up in a junk draw. Prized for a few a weeks then tucked away.

How can we know where these products are made - the impact they had on the environment or a community during the production process. Not to mention tha one day be removed from that junk draw and make a journey into landfill to sit for who knows how long.

This is not charity. This is mindless pollution.

I ask you that when you are passing your hard earned cash or goods over to a group in need, ignore the temptation to seek a physical reward or follow convenience. Mention that it is a waste of resources and that they should not give out products that will never go away. The act of giving is enough. The earth will be better off and so will generations to come.
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