NORTHERN Rivers residents are being asked to ‘think local’ before filling what, at first glance, appear to be pink charity clothing collection bags that are being left across the region.
Local charities St Vincent de Paul, Lifeline, the Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter and the Salvos yesterday warned many of the services they provided were threatened by the recent arrival of the for-profit clothing recycled company.
“They are really taking funds out of the community that would otherwise go to help people here,” St Vincent de Paul volunteer Gwen King said.
The charities fund many of their services by selling second-hand clothing through their op shops.
The pink plastic bags are believed to have first appeared in Lismore last November. Under large print proclaiming ‘We Need Your Help’ is a smaller message saying the collection is organised by commercially-operated recycler, which sells cheap items to low-income families or ships them to Papua New Guinea.
George Doonan, manager of Shute Industry which owns the recycling centre, said his company sold only to PNG, not within Australia.
He said while all staff were paid, all the company’s profits were reinvested in the business.
Mr Doonan rejected suggestions the company was hurting local charities.
“There is plenty to go around,” he said.
Lifeline’s Peter Higgins said the fact the private company did not advertise who they were meant they were leveraging off the goodwill of community groups.
He said the charities’ op shops were already finding it difficult to source quality clothing for their stores.
Mrs King said the activities of the private company were “disappointing, particularly when you think of all the volunteers who give their time to generate an income for the good of the community”.
Mrs King said despite Australia officially missing the worst of the global recession, many local families were doing it tough.
She said the number of food parcels the charity handed out every day had increased more than four-fold after Christmas.