Do's and don’ts of donating


By Tracy Tsang, Marketing Manager - Internal Communications

It’s Global Recycling Day on 18 March. Global Recycling Day was started in 2018 to help recognise, and celebrate, the importance recycling plays in preserving our primary resources and securing the future of our planet. Every year, the Earth yields billions of tons of natural resources and at some point, it will run out due to overconsumption. Recycling is a key part of the circular economy, helping to protect our natural resources.

Since I was young, my grandmother and mother taught me to repair clothing, recycle and donate. Nothing goes to waste. So, every month I donate at least one black bag to either Cancer Research or Oxfam charity shops. I have Gift Aid setup with them. Gift Aid is a tax relief allowing UK charities to reclaim an extra 25% in tax on every eligible donation made by a UK taxpayer. In February 2020, before the pandemic, I did a spring clean and donated six bags of goods to Cancer Research – rollerblades I hadn’t used in 10 years; suitcases (they told me people are always looking for suitcases); gym bags; books; clothing; accessories; unwanted gifts (unopened perfume; jewellery; candles), etc. They sent me a letter to say the goods sold for £400 plus Gift Aid. I was amazed!

In this blog, I want to share with you my experience of recycling and donating. Then leave you with some do's and don’ts.

Foodbanks – at the start of the pandemic around half of people who used a foodbank had never needed one before, including my friend whose husband lost his job and she was furloughed. Families with children were the hardest hitI’ve supported a local foodbank for many years, I buy non-perishable items like tins of soup, beans, spaghetti hoops, dried pasta and rice. It’s easy to pick up a few extra items when I do my food shop.

Be careful what you buy or donate. Check used by dates/ expiry dates. I read that the Cardiff Foodbank was given a can of Heinz Kidney Soup, still bearing the sticker price of ‘10d’. It was at least 45 years out of date. The UK adopted the decimal system in 1971 and Heinz stopped making kidney soup over 35 years ago!

Christmas Shoebox Appeal  since school, I’ve collected for the Christmas shoebox appeal each year. My friend works for Samaritan’s Purse. She says churches, schools, companies and groups collect these boxes during the national collection week, then thousands of volunteers check and prepare the shoeboxes for international shipping. Last year IQ-EQ teams supported the shoebox appeal. The boxes are filled with small toys, hygiene items, and school supplies. They ship these simple gifts outside the UK to children in over 100 countries affected by war, poverty, natural disaster, famine, and disease.

Ukraine Crisis Appeal – my friend is from Ukraine, and last week she travelled to Odessa from Ireland to Romania/Moldova/Ukraine – 1 car, 1 bus, 1 plane, 3 buses and 2 car journeys later and with the help of kind strangers, through border controls, refugee camps, she was reunited with her 86 year old mother.

We’ve a large Polish population here. Many charities and companies are collecting donations of blankets, food, medical supplies, etc to deliver to refugee camps in Poland. This is fantastic that people want to help, but please be mindful of what you are buying or donating. Many people have had to stop the donations coming in, as they are overwhelmed with supplies and don’t have the manpower to sort everything out before their transport deadline.

My friend who works for Samaritan’s Purse said it takes a lot of manpower to sort out donated supplies e.g. sorting out quality items, safety of toys, what will go through customs, etc.

For Ukraine, I made five baby blankets, bought four new baby blankets, nappies, baby wipes, cotton wool, medical/ emergency supplies and I sorted them into labelled bags for the volunteers. Perhaps you can’t buy new, but you can donate nearly new. Make sure it is clean, good quality and safe. Ask yourself do you want a little child to be given something used, that is stained or threadbare to wear?

What happens to the clothing that can’t be sold in a charity shop?

Clothes which can't be sold in a charity shop will be sold to textile recycling companies, so they still make money for the charity.

In my spare time I design and make homemade fabric gifts for home, travel and kids. I support not-for-profit community based organisations and charities by fundraising through crafting. I also organise a weekly sewing group and monthly craft group. As a result there are a lot of scrap materials, but there is never any waste. I donate these to my friend, and her sister’s church in Sligo, Ireland, gives them to a merchant that donates the funds to charities in Africa.

Oxfam says more than 70% of clothes donated globally make their way to Africa and 40% of which ends up in landfill almost immediately. At least one million pounds of textiles heads to landfill each week. This isn’t because local traders are wasteful, in fact, they do their best to sell clothes, often upcycling them, however the quality and condition of what they receive is not always suitable.

How can you ensure your donations don’t end up in landfill?

Here are some do's and don'ts

  • Donate directly – If you donate to a charity shop rather than a clothing bank, the charity may be able to sell the clothes in a charity shop rather than immediately sending them on to other markets. Keep in mind that even direct donations can end up in landfill if they’re not up to a good quality standard
  • Ask them what they need - A quick check can avoid burdening a shop with something they can’t sell. Donate lego, completed jigsaws and board games, books in good condition, quality linens and homeware such as glass, crockery and kitchen utensils
  • Check the quality - So before you donate, ask yourself, ‘Would someone buy this if they saw it in a charity shop?’ If there are missing buttons or holes in your clothes, don’t assume a charity has the time or resources to fix them. If you have the skills or know someone who does, consider repairing them before donating them
  • Wash and dry all clothes before donating - many volunteers have to deal with unclean clothing - an very unpleasant experience, and a waste of resources
  • Check the labels - Charity shops have to abide by certain safety regulations, so it’s important to check there are labels attached to ensure safety of e.g. highly flammable goods
  • Donate small electronics – Some charity shops do PAT (portable appliance test) testing to ensure they are safe to use. Check with the charity shop first


  • Donate products that haven’t been thoroughly cleaned 
  • Donate helmets or car seats, as there is no way to guarantee their safety
  • Donate fur, many charity shops will have an animal rights policy 
  • Donate broken or poor quality items

Hopefully this has given you some ideas on how to recycle and donate responsibly. If you want to read more, visit Love Not Landfill a non-profit campaign to encourage fast fashion fans to buy second-hand, swap, recycle and give to charity.