What about waste? Recycling and waste-reduction measures across our Retail Estate

  • 24 July, 2023
  • News

We all know ways in which we can reduce waste in our homes. Recycling packaging, composting our food, and re-using carrier bags, to name a few. For many of us, donating our preloved items to charity shops is an effective way to prevent unnecessary landfill. In one survey conducted by the British Heart Foundation, it was found that among those who agreed charity shops were a vital part of society, 55% said this was because they prevent items from being thrown away.

“If you don’t want it, it’ll only go to the tip!”

Our charity shops are at the heart of what we do, generating a whopping £5.3 million in income in the last year alone. This income is vital for us to deliver end-of-life and palliative care to patients and their families – both on the Inpatient Unit at Winsley House and across our community to whoever needs it, where ever they need it, free of charge.

All charity shops have “rag,” anything that is unsuitable to put on sale, and we have two rag merchants who serve all 26 Dorothy House charity shops and our Warehouse. However, just because we’re able to send these items to the rag merchant, it’s important to note that dirty and broken donations cost us an eye-watering £50,000 per year in waste costs – funds which could be spent providing care and support our to patients and families. While most of the donations we receive are of excellent quality, we still receive items that are dirty, broken or unfit for purpose. While our teams have means to recycle certain materials, you can help us out beforehand by only donating good quality, clean, safe and undamaged items in the first instance.

A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself “would I buy this from a charity shop myself?” or “will this otherwise go to the tip?” If your only other option to dispose of an unwanted item is the tip, it’s more cost and time effective to cut out the middleman!

Our shop teams are always happy to help if you’re unsure about what can and can’t be donated, and you can get in touch with them by giving them a call, or popping into your nearest Dorothy House shop.

What happens at the Warehouse?

Fans of our Warehouse sales will be aware of our Retail HQ in Corsham, but many will be unaware of what goes on behind the scenes. Our Donation Station is open every Friday from 10am to 3pm (from the 1 August, we’ll be open on Tuesdays too!), where we can take your unwanted items which we then distribute across our shops to be rehomed.

The Warehouse is also home to items that have previously been displayed in our shops, but for whatever reason, they haven’t sold. It’s important to note that these items will still be in good condition, but they may not have sold because of factors such as the time of year – this is particularly true in the case of seasonal clothing, and that’s where our increasingly popular Warehouse sales come in…

The wonder of the Warehouse sale

So far this year, we’ve held three Warehouse sales, with a fourth taking place in August ahead of our Sustainable September campaign. We’ll also be holding a special pop-up event at Winsley House on 23 September, so make sure you save the date!

It’s been fantastic to see these events increase in popularity this year, as our customers and workforce embrace more sustainable ways of shopping. Warehouse sales bring multiple benefits for all involved. For the customer, they can fill a whole bag of clothing for just £10, allowing them to refresh their wardrobe at a fraction of the cost. For Dorothy House, we’re able to generate valuable income which help to fund vital care to patients and families across our 700sq mile patch. The larger-scale benefit to these events, however, is that they prevent large amounts of good quality clothing from being diverted to landfill, creating a significant impact on the environment.

Clothing hanging on rails at the Warehouse sale

Warehouse sales also allow us to sell items that our shops don’t have the capacity or space for, such as suitcases and other large items that donations are delivered in. These types of items are great for Warehouse sales, as we have the space to put them up for sale at significantly lower prices. If you’re in need of a suitcase and spot a good-quality one for a few quid, chances are you’ll snap it up rather than paying a hefty price for a brand new one! So, not only does the item get sold, but we’ll also avoid sending it to landfill. It’s a win-win!

Alongside all of this, there’s another reason why our Warehouse sales are so important. Rag merchants pay a price per kilo on the items that they collect from us, but we can generate ten times more vital income through the items sold in bulk at these regular events. If we were to make £2,000 at a Warehouse or kilo sale, these items would have generated around £200 in rag – quite the difference to our fundraising targets.

Recycling across the Retail estate

Our Warehouse team separate waste as much as possible so that it can be recycled. Generally, materials such as wood, glass and hard plastic are recycled. Wooden furniture that doesn’t sell is broken down, while upholstered furniture can be dismantled with component parts appropriately recycled. In addition, the team also have access to a metal skip on the Warehouse estate. This is particularly useful when it comes to electrical items that fail their PAT testing, as we can avoid sending them to landfill.

The dreaded plastic bag

One of the biggest challenges for the retail industry in recent years has been finding cost-effective alternatives to plastic carrier bags. From switching to paper bags to offering incentives for customers who re-use bags, missions to do away with the dreaded plastic bag have been well underway.

Generally, our shops keep hold of plastic bags that donations are brought in, which are then offered to customers who request a bag when they shop with us. We also have our own reusable Dorothy House branded shopper bags available for purchase in two different sizes. For shops which have an over-supply of plastic bags, these can be sent back to the Warehouse, either for use or collection from the rag merchant. We’re also lucky to have an incredible team of volunteers in our shops who will very kindly offer to take excess carrier bags to recycling points, and in some cases, will take items such plastic bottles and cardboard home to be disposed of with their own household waste!

But what about the plastic bags used at the Warehouse sales? Our team provide customers with a Dorothy House branded carrier bag on arrival, which allows us to keep purchases fair, and we’re pleased to reassure customers that the carrier bags used at these events are 100% biodegradable. We ask that customers reuse or recycle the bags appropriately and responsibly at home.

How can you help?

While our team have a number of measures in place to reduce waste across our Retail estate, there is always more that can be done. Donations are vital to help us generate income for our shops, however, those that are dirty, broken, or unsafe are incredibly costly to us. Ultimately, our supporters can also help us to reduce waste by only donating items that are clean, unbroken, and in good condition. Good quality donations mean that we can keep our waste costs down, and most importantly, generate vital income that allows us to provide our care, free of charge, to patients and families across our community.