Only 3 in 10 charity donations make it to the shelves.

Charity shop treasure…or just trash?

Is your donation worth a fortune, or is it costing charities to get rid of your rubbish?

Donating unwanted items to charity is a great way to support well-deserved causes while having a clear out, but is your unloved junk even making it to the shop floor?

The waste collection experts at have estimated less than a third of donations make it to the shelves in local charity shops after staff have picked through the high-value items for online selling and thrown away the rubbish, which costs shops £100’s of thousands to have collected and disposed of.

“Donated items have to go through a purging process where staff have to decide what stays and what goes, and sometimes this includes what can make a tidy profit online,” says spokesman Mark Hall.

“And beware, people really do try to donate everything, so with the treasure always comes the absolute trash that belongs in a bin.”

charity shop junk

Swapping the shop floor for online auctions

If you’re hitting up a charity shop to see if you can find something worth a small fortune, the odds are it’s already been sifted out for an online auction before it’s even left the stockroom.

Savvy workers and volunteers can spot a treasure from a mile off when rummaging through donations and tend to cherry-pick the best items to sell online for a higher profit, instead of throwing it out on the shelves for a couple of quid.

Certain items are guaranteed to never get to the shop floor as one volunteer in Bradford tells us, “we all know what things are worth and are told to look it up, so most high-value products such as silverware or video games will end up in an online auction.”

Selling online became a lifeline for charities who were unable to sell when the shops were shut during lockdown, with Oxfam reporting increased sales online by 86% over the festive period.

Leading charities such as The British Heart Foundation have partnered up with online selling platforms such as Depop, to promote sustainable fashion and raise much-needed funds online.

It’s not just charity shop workers who are eagled eyed at spotting a bargain, as have learnt about a growing trend of clued-up customers who are searching out bargains that can be sold online for a meaty profit.

Business-brained bargain hunters often use charity shops as a way of scoping out items at low prices that can be resold for a profit, such as a mum from London who found a copy of Grimm’s Fairy Tales for £11 that turned out to be worth up to £4,000 and has since started an online shop selling collectable items she finds in charity shops. .

And sadly, BW has learned that some people volunteer at charity shops just to line their pockets in this way.

Hall: “It turns out there might actually be some treasure to be found somewhere between the countless Robbie Williams CDs and copies of Fifty Shades of Grey, but only if the resellers haven’t beaten you to it.”

In the bargain bin

Donations that aren’t good enough for the shop floor are sadly destined for the bin, and as knows, this actually costs charities money which can often leave them out of pocket.

The British Heart Foundation estimates it costs ‘hundreds of thousands of pounds’ to pay local councils to dispose of unsaleable items.

This is why most charity shops now are getting picky because it’s easier to reject donations than to pay to throw them away.

Hall: “People need to think carefully about what they are planning to donate, by looking at the condition of the item and consider whether it’s something they would be happy buying second-hand themselves.”

One charity shop in South Molton, Devon, estimates it only keeps around 10% of the items it receives, after having to throw away donations such as out of date food, blood-stained clothes, used sex toys, and bags of dog poo.

Hall: “Charity shops are not an alternative for the bin, so if you’re giving them rubbish you’re just wasting their time and money.

“So please stop donating (literal) bags of crap.”

Read next – Weird things donated to charity shops

free bins icon.

Have your waste collected

Get a fast FREE quote for your waste collection 0800 211 83 90

  • Free quote within 1 hr
  • Any type of waste
  • FREE bins and delivery
  • We cover all of the UK