Charities rely on donations of second-hand clothes and other items to raise funds for good causes, but some receive a significant amount of unusable items dumped illegally on their doorsteps out of hours, which they are forced to dispose of at a significant cost.
Environment Protection Authority (EPA) Victoria, local councils, charities and the National Association of Charitable Recyclers needed evidence to test their assumptions of what would stop this problem from occurring, so they asked us to examine the underlying factors and design preventative interventions.
“Illegal dumping levels outside charity stores are a problem and charities are having to put more and more funding towards dealing with the resulting waste. We needed to research solutions that would work.” – Sally White, Group Manager, Strategic Partnerships, EPA
Our research approach
We wanted to test a number of options with different sized charity stores to try to reduce levels of illegal dumping and investigate any underlying factors that could be influencing the problem. We:
– tested specific interventions such as signs, sensor lighting, fencing and CCTV with a number of high street stores and large warehouses
– analysed waste-disposal data from before and after the intervention as an indicator of levels of illegal dumping
– investigated correlations between factors thought to influence illegal dumping levels (such as opening hours, store size and local community demographics) by analysing waste-disposal and store-specific data from a further 145 charity stores in Victoria.
Did anything work to reduce illegal dumping levels?
We found that waste levels at larger warehouse charity stores could be reduced by introducing fencing and signage informing people of the personal consequences (fines) of dumping.
The cost of installing these would, on average, be paid for by savings to waste-disposal costs over 17 months. For smaller charity stores, no single solution was effective at reducing the amount of illegal dumping.