Is op shop giving as good as we think it is?

Is op shop giving as good as we think it is?

When you accumulate a pile of unworn clothes in your closet, the usual response is to drop them at the op shop or to shove them in those wide mouthed metal donation bins. You may think this is the best option for these unwanted items, though this is not always the case.

Is op shop giving as good as we think it is?

Written by Jasmine Mayhead.

When you accumulate a pile of unworn clothes in your closet, the usual response is to drop them at the op shop or to shove them in those wide mouthed metal donation bins. You may think this is the best option for these unwanted items, though this is not always the case.

Op shops have become the new landfill. More often than not, they’re a place for consumers to offset the guilt brought about from personal fast fashion habits, and the cause behind the startling hidden world of the second-hand clothing trade.

According to MRA Consulting Group, the cost incurred by an average charity shop for clothing disposal is $7,243 annually, and an average of 12.1kg of clothing textiles are donated per Australian to charity shops every year.

If they are not sold, recycled or sent to landfill, these clothes are exported overseas to developing nations, including Ghana. The detailed Dead White Man’s Clothes report explains that 15 million garments arrive in Ghana’s capital of Accra every week, where they either flood the city’s clothing market or are dumped into landfill on arrival. Those who rely on this clothing to generate an income for themselves live in a daily gamble with the variable quality of second-hand clothes; they never know what will arrive on their shores, nor what will be in sellable condition.

The second-hand clothing trade is creating economic issues all over the globe, and serving as an excuse to continue consuming clothes at an unsustainable rate. Giving to op shops should not serve as an excuse to buy more. The idea of sustainable fashion is to both consume and produce less, and care for the items you have more.

Fortunately for us, the answer is not to boycott op shopping. When done with intention, op shopping promotes a circular economy that keeps resources ‘in the game’ rather than redundant. Using up resources we already have by shopping for “one man’s trash” (lyrics from the thrift-king himself, Macklemore) is a great way of consuming with less impact on the environment.

So, in the spirit of sustainable and intentional donating, we’ve done up a bit of an Op Shop Etiquette guide so you, the epic conscious consumer, don’t contribute to the problems associated with unnecessary and wasteful donating.



The Op Shop Etiquette


01. Wash and Repair

Gift items to the op shop in a sellable state. Wash clothes, fix buttons, and remove old batteries. Stained underwear and broken electronics are a definite no-no. Only gift things in a state that you would be comfortable purchasing them in yourself.

02. Re-home before you donate

Before donating, consider if there are any friends or family who may want or need any of your unwanted or unneeded items.

03. Become a virtual op shop volunteer

Have you always dreamt of volunteering at the op shop but have found you’re never available at the right time? Sell your items online, and gift profits to a charity of your choice. This way, you’re removing the volunteer time of processing the items in store, but still giving back.

04. Ask before you drop

Op shops have seasons, sporadic overflows of the same items, and minimal storage. Before you drop off unwanted goodies, ask instore what items they need or have too much of. Hot tip: store your winter clothes until autumn comes around.

05. Never drop and run

Piling your crap at the front of the store during closing hours should be a criminal offence. Don’t @ us.


Essentially, op shops are supposed to be a way to divert useable goods from landfill, though they are quickly becoming landfills themselves. Ensure when you donate your goods that you do so appropriately and thoughtfully, and gift items to the op shop when their sorting department is open and willing. People and the planet will thank you for it.

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