The urge to organise the entire contents of our home and wardrobe is stronger than ever as we continue to adjust to life during coronavirus. Maybe you've come over all Marie Kondo as you decide which of your possessions "spark joy", and which need to be let go (after thanking them for their service, of course). As England enters another month-long lockdown this November, sorting your belongings seems like a productive use of time. However, as you pack them up ready for the charity shop, we're wondering, can you still donate and recycle old clothes during lockdown?
As of Nov. 5 the England's charity shops have been forced to close once again in accordance with new countrywide restrictions. You’d be forgiven if it feels like groundhog day right now. Back in March, at the start of the UK's move into lockdown, thousands of charity shops and recycling centres across the country closed their doors. Following the government’s May 25 announcement, England permitted non-essential shops and charity shops reopen from June and people were finally able to finish some of their lockdown organisation and donate to their favourite charities.
This November, if you live in England, it’s wise to hold off on another huge clothing drive until we’re given the green light to return to shops. In Wales, charity shops, like other stores will reopen when their lockdown is lifted on November 6, as will Northern Ireland's when theirs ends on November 13, while shops in Scotland remain open subject to local tier restrictions.
Oxfam, which had to close 650 high-street stores due to the pandemic earlier this year, announced it would be temporarily closing its England high-street stores on Nov. 5. While Oxfam’s donation banks remain open throughout lockdowns, the charity urged people to “please save donations” until they open again. Children’s charity Barnardos has also asked people to save donations until December.
During the previous lockdown, charity shops recorded customers dumping unwanted on their doorsteps. Via Twitter, Cancer Research UK has asked people to “not leave donations outside the shops” during subsequent lockdowns. as“they could be stolen, damaged or become a hazard to the shop and local community.”
After it announced it would also be closing its 616 shops and stores in England, the British Heart Foundation said smaller donations would be well-received via its freepost donation service. “We ask those with larger items to kindly hold onto them until we have reopened,” they added.
Before you make plans to race down to your local charity shop with heaps of unwanted clothing when they reopen though, charity shop bosses asked the public to “be thoughtful about the sorts of things you're donating". Stores were overwhelmed with donations accumulated during the first lockdown. Per Third Sector, St Barnabas Hospice was forced to stop accepting donations after it received more than 15,000 bags and boxes of donations – weighing about 50 tonnes – to its stores. After November’s lockdown, charity shops aren’t expecting a similar turnout but still insist people make thoughtful donations once they reopen.
And signs say, charity shops will be more than worth waiting for when doors open again. Back in June, Oxfam expected its stores to be “treasure troves” following lockdown clear-outs. "From a shopper perspective I think that people can expect to find some really great treasures to buy, because everybody's had a lockdown clear-out, and I think that charity shops are going to be full of some really great gems that people have cleared out of their homes," Oxfam’s Fee Gilfeather told The Telegraph.
While the previous lockdown saw an influx of new donations, charity shops are expected to have an “easier time” once they reopen later this year. Much like all stores on the high street, charity shops have already had to adopt new safety measures for both shoppers and volunteers. Keen thrifters were happy to find that clothing donations are “quarantined for 72 hours,” reports BBC. Speaking to the BBC, Vicki Burnett, senior consultant at the Charity Retail Consultancy, reassured the public that charity shops “already have great hygiene processes in their shops when it comes to sorting goods – items are washed, steamed or cleaned and this will only increase in the current situation."
So, that's the old clothes situation covered. What about other junk that you might have accumulated during lockdown?
If you’ve been elbow’s deep in home improvements over the last few months, and are now harbouring a heap of unwanted household items as a result of nationwide recycling centre closures, signs say you may be able to get rid depending on where you live. While it was first suggested people "avoid doing large DIY projects or clear outs unless you have space to store your waste” as of May 1, tip sites reopened across the UK and will be staying open for lockdown 2.0
Pressure to reopen came after members of the public began dumping rubbish illegally — and back in April the UK saw “a 300% increase in fly-tipping, per ITV News. Naturally, this sparked pleas to open waste sites across the country.
This lockdown, those on a ‘get-rid’ mission will be able to do so safely while following social distancing guidelines.
Greater Manchester’s recycling centre listed the national rules on its website.
- Stay two metres (six feet) away from other visitors and staff at all times
- Wear a face mask if you can
- Only one person at a time to dispose of waste in any container
- Only one person to access a walkway/gantry at a time
- Do not visit if you or anyone from your household have Covid-19 symptoms
- Two people from the same household may leave their vehicle only to carry large items
- Other passengers must remain in the car
- Wash your hands regularly
It’s best to check with your local council before you head out to the dump and most would suggest to only travel if absolutely necessary to prevent queues and over-crowding.
If you’re worried about overwhelming charity shops with donations once they reopen, then it's worth checking out the Thrift+ and Farfetch collaboration. The luxury fashion platform has teamed up with the second-hand donation service, to help people sell their best second hand clothing (with a huge emphasis on best). They've made it as easy as possible, with free collection and delivery, while Thrift+ manage sales, too – all you have to do is pack up the clothes. You can then donate two-thirds of the proceeds to a charity of your choice, and use the remaining amount as Farfetch credit, or just donate full proceeds to charity. “Simply order a thrift bag, fill it up and they will collect it,” the website explains.
There are plenty of other ways to support charities during the pandemic. You can still donate money, or volunteer time to talk to those who are vulnerable over the phone. Beauty Banks is also worth checking out, a very cool organisation which has made super easy for you to donate beauty products to those in need.
There are some good sites to buy second-hand fashion online, if you're missing your usual thrift shopping. And many of your favourite charities, including Oxfam, have online stores operating throughout lockdown 2.0.
Or, perhaps now is the time to embrace upcycling, bringing new life into old clothes. Learn how to repair holes, replace missing buttons, turn worn-out jeans into denim shorts (in the hope that the sun will take the hint and reappear) – there are thousands of how-to videos online for inspiration.
And so as not to overwhelm charity shops as they start to reopen, it might be a good idea to invest in some space-saving storage options – we recommend vacuum packs – for clothes that will eventually be destined for donation (Amazon, of course, has plenty of options). Oxfam recommends staggering large donations and calling ahead when you’re ready to donate.
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