ARMIDALE charities say the amount of time they spend dealing with rubbish dumped at local charity bins equates to more than 1100 working days a year, and in Tamworth that figure could be easily doubled.
The statistics come from the newly-formed Armidale Charity Alliance (ACA) comprising The St Vincent de Paul Society, Salvation Army and Lifeline.
The group’s first major challenge is illegal dumping and the estimated costs to their Armidale outlets alone makes for sobering reading.
The ACA members audited their sorting and transporting activities and found the weekly toll of sorting dumped junk – estimated last year to be in the vicinity of 200 tonnes – and taking it to the tip was more than 180 hours a week or 1100 eight-hour days annually.
Armidale Dumaresq councillor Peter O’Donohue said it was the equivalent of 4.4 full-time workers, who if they received minimum wage plus superannuation, would cost more than $180,000 annually.
“Fortunately these workers are volunteers but it gives you an idea of the massive cost to our charities,” Cr O’Donohue said.
“Which is why we’re working for change.”
Part of that change comes in the form of a $20,000 grant from the EPA under its Waste Less, Recycle More initiative, with surveillance cameras to be installed at Armidale charity bins to catch illegal dumpers. The chief executive officer of Lifeline North West NSW Michael Ticehurst said the figures were a good illustration of the scale of the problem and that in Tamworth, they could be doubled.
Soiled mattresses, old televisions and broken white-goods posed the biggest problems, he said, a mattress costing about $15 to take to the tip.
“You could say, I suppose, that money from 20 per cent of our good donations goes to getting rid of dumped goods,” Mr Ticehurst said.
The charities were in no way trying to discourage people with useable items from donating them, he said, but when it to came to suspect goods there was an easy rule of thumb.
“If your friends wouldn’t have it or you wouldn’t pay for it, then it’s probably not suitable,” he said.
If in doubt though, a quick phone call to any of the three charities would probably clear things up.
He said there was no excuse for broken, soiled, unuseable items to be dumped, considering many councils, including Tamworth, offered several free bulky goods pick-ups a year.
“In this age of shrinking funding and the shrinking charity dollar ... this practice is just eating into the resources we should be using to help those in need,” Mr Ticehurst said.