Dumping to donations at Doncaster Salvos
Doncaster Salvos, with support from Salvos Head Office, partnered with Manningham City Council to turn out-of-control dumping into quality donations for their store, helping to inform the development of the VLAA Litter Prevention Kit for managing illegal dumping at charity stores along the way.
Salvos Stores have been operating in Australia in various forms since the 1880’s. They aim to provide services in harmony with Christian principles, professionally and efficiently, as well as in an environmentally responsible manner, to maximise funding for Salvation Army programs.
Doncaster Salvos has been operating in this manner for over 15 years and currently have five permanent staff members, including Store Manager, Natasha, and 25 volunteers ranging in age from 18 to 80. The store is located at the end of a strip of shops on Doncaster Road and enjoys a high volume of donations and a steady stream of sales.
Despite the generosity of the donating community, Doncaster Salvos were experiencing a high volume of inappropriate donations including unaccepted items, household waste, and donations outside of store hours and not in the correct receptacles. This was leading to low staff and volunteer morale, sky-rocketing waste bills, occupational health and safety risks and amenity issues surrounding the store.
Residents were complaining to both Salvos and Manningham City Council about the donations that were being rummaged through after hours, with some items being stolen and unwanted items being spread across the shop front.
Both Salvos and Manningham City Council needed to work together to reduce dumping of waste and to improve donating behaviour and quality. A dialogue began and resulted in Salvos and Manningham City Council agreeing to take part in the Victorian Government’s Small Scale Illegal Dumping Program, targeting illegal dumping at charity stores. Knowledge gained from participation in this program then helped to inform the VLAA Litter Prevention Kit for managing illegal dumping at charity stores.
The aims and objectives of the Small Scale Illegal Dumping Program were to reduce illegal dumping, improve donating behaviour and trial the effectiveness of using surveillance cameras, lighting, fencing or signage to promote these behaviours.
At the beginning of the trial Doncaster Salvos was disposing of approximately 17 tonnes of waste to landfill per month, from both normal store operations and dumped waste, including inappropriate donations. With signage already present, see figure 1, Doncaster Salvos tested the effectiveness of surveillance cameras at their site, with assistance from Manningham City Council who viewed footage and followed up offenders.
Weekend and after-hours patrols by Manningham City Council complimented this and Doncaster Salvos also moved their donation bins to the rear of the store to encourage people to come inside to donate, promoting a face-to-face conversation about good donating practices.
All staff and volunteers were involved in the changes, accepting donations and chatting to shoppers. Natasha dealt with any complaints from those who had been fined for dumping out the front of the store outside store opening hours.
In the two years since these interventions were installed Doncaster Salvos have seen a number of significant changes including:
> Improvement in the quality of donations
> Increased sales
> Significant savings in waste disposal costs, now disposing of only 6.3 tonnes of waste to landfill per month
> Improved staff and volunteer morale and safety
> A number of fines issued for littering; two in 2012, 43 in 2013, and 31 in 2014; and a total of ten warnings; and
> A significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions through diversion of waste from landfill.
The success experienced at Doncaster Salvos has been used to influence a number of broader changes across the Salvos Stores network including:
> Generation of new relationships with new councils in the Southern Region of Australia and with other providers, e.g. The Ethical Council and Pathways in Shepparton.
> Production of Salvos own Kit for site managers around Australia, on what processes to follow, using the VLAA Litter Prevention Kit as a generic guide.
> Engagement of Victoria Police on criminal matters including breaking and entering into their bins.
> Successful funding bids for infrastructure and support staff, to deter; and also to validate enforcement requirements, needed by council or police.
> Boosting signage to all Victorian stores with common positioning and messages on appropriate donation times and warnings that Infringements will apply.
The approach taken by Doncaster Salvos and Manningham City Council to tackle this issue has all the elements of best practice litter prevention – education, infrastructure and enforcement – and are all underpinned by good data collection and communication between the parties. This approach is promoted in the VLAA Litter Prevention Kit for managing illegal dumping at charity stores which is available for free download on the VLAA website www.litter.vic.gov.au.
“Staff and volunteers have gone from not wanting to go inside because of the dumping, to it being far more enjoyable to come to work.”
Natasha Scott, Store Manager – Doncaster Salvos
The outstanding results Doncaster Salvos achieved did not come without their challenges. Staff changes at Salvos Head Office and at Manningham City Council during the intervention trial period meant relationships had to be re-established at a critical time. Manningham City Council was very generous in their commitment of staff to this project but this cannot always be the case across every local government. This poses challenges to other charity store sites with similar issues.
Dealing with customers who received fines for dumping goods was also a challenge however Natasha’s empathetic and endearing manner helped people learn and understand why it’s not ok to donate after hours and what can happen to well-intended donations.
Doncaster Salvos’ next steps are to maintain their great work and relationships with Manningham City Council, and to increase resource recovery of plastics for recycling so they can reduce their waste bills even more, diverting more waste from landfill at the same time.
For more information contact
Michael Skudutis on 03 9210 5126
or visit www.salvosstores.com.au