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.


  1. I completely agree with you! Another thought: why can't we have South Australias system of recycling of bottles here in the ACT?

    1. Thanks! I was nervous about putting this up. I did not want people to feel like I was attaching charities.

  2. 100% agree!! I went to a health food convention in March and for the most part, the businesses that set up tables discuss the importance of sustainability in our food system. That is fine and dandy, but how many of them gave taste tests in plastic containers? Of those who opted for biodegradable materials, how many actually composted, as opposed to sending the waste to landfills? I honestly found it overwhelmingly shocking. Sure, it was great to have a taste of some new products, but most I would not even buy anyways, as I prefer to make my food from scratch; even the “healthy” versions of junk foods are just that: junk food!

    1. Those biodegradable choices are often not composted, as they require a particular industrial composting facility. Even then, the use of biodegradable does not curb the single-use mindset.

    2. Luckily, my city is taking steps towards composting. For now it is curbside pickup in certain municipalities, but like you said, that does not mean businesses are composting. This points to one problem with biodegradable products, that they are still going to landfill, defeating the whole purpose of being biodegradable. Like you say, though, this reinforces single-use mentality. For me the best option would be to make biodegradable products that are reusable. In the context of the convention I attended, the fee for entry could have included a biodegradable but reusable spoon, little bowl and little cup, which could have been reused throughout the convention. For me I wouldn’t worry about mixing flavours, but for those who would require a washing station, this could be available in some way that minimizes water use. There are always solutions, but people don’t want to do the work. Infuriating.

  3. Anonymous9/17/2017

    A story about the business behind the pink bags (or a similar organisation). It's not organised directly by the charities, although they get a donation.

    1. Thank you for sharing this news article with me :)


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