Charity shops and waste charges

Charity shops are able to sell – either on the shop floor or to textile traders – 95 per cent of all the clothing donations they receive. The remaining five per cent originated from a domestic property and has not been altered, so is still defined as domestic waste and therefore should be exempt from disposal charges. It is only this kind of waste, and when taken to a civic amenities site, that charity retailers generally expect to be exempt from charges.

Legal guidance, summarised here, backs up these findings. 

Despite this, our research has found that many local authorities across Great Britain, charge charity shops in some way for disposal of domestic waste. We have provided members with a campaign pack for use when they wish to challenge this problem locally, and are also pursuing change at a national level.

With this in mind, on Tuesday, 2 April, our Chief Executive, Robin Osterley, and I met with the Local Government Association (LGA) and Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) in central London. We firmly asserted at the start that unsaleable donations are domestic waste in legislation and so not chargeable, and the other two parties accepted this.

The LGA did say that when a council site is near to a regional distribution centre, or a shop that does a lot of house clearances, this site will get a disproportionate amount of waste. We sympathised but highlighted that operations on this scale will be adding to the sum total of goods that are re-used, and that the legislation makes no distinction on this basis.

An area of closer agreement was that, like domestic residents, charities should use their access rights reasonably. As an individual resident, when I last moved house I took a lot of stuff to the tip and was able to dispose of this for free, but was weighed and logged each time so that my local council knew I was dumping a normal amount and not running a business on the side.

To this end, we have agreed to participate in a joint summit between us, the LGA and DEFRA in June to try to agree a set of principles for a “reasonable use policy” councils can adopt. A prerequisite for this from the our point of view is that councils must accept that the waste we are talking about is domestic, so councils can only request charities be reasonable (for example, do more to sort the waste into recyclables before taking it in or avoid busy times where possible) and not block them completely. These principles would be over-arching and individual councils and charity shops would negotiate specific local agreements within the framework.

If you want to get involved in this, please get in touch.

Matt Kelcher
Head of Public Affairs and Research
Charity Retail Association