- Associated Press - Thursday, September 24, 2015

ROSEBURG, Ore. (AP) - Old tires. Broken plates. Soiled clothing. Filthy mattresses. Filthier couches.

These are some of the items Douglas County residents have disposed of since controversial new landfill fees went into effect earlier this month.

But these things weren’t dumped at the landfill.

Instead, county residents dumped this junk outside of local nonprofit thrift stores that have been forced to pay to haul others’ garbage off to the dump - reducing the amount of money the secondhand stores can collect to help people and pets in need. The nonprofit stores must pay for the labor, transportation costs and fees at the dump to get rid of the unwanted junk.

Thrift store managers believe the increase in unwanted donations is linked to the passage of controversial new landfill fees. The county began charging for trash dumped at the landfill and area transfer stations Sept. 1.

At the Salvation Army thrift store, the problem started just before that, and “the closer it got, the worse it got,” according to warehouse supervisor Helen Coulter.

Many of the “donors” did their dirty work in clandestine fashion, at night.

One of the worst items dropped off at the Salvation Army was a four-piece sectional couch with a hide-a-bed and recliner.

“I wouldn’t even let my dog sleep on this couch. It was that bad,” Coulter said.

Just before the dump fees started, someone dropped off a spa filled with trash bags. The employees went through the trash to see if they could figure out who dumped it, but with no luck.

The store has security cameras already. Coulter said they’re thinking of putting up gates to block access at night.

Salvation Army Operations Manager C. Ann Klein-Maciek said, “Most people know better…. I think it’s people trying to slip under the wire, so to speak, to decrease their dump fees. We have seen just as much unsellable stuff donated as sellable items. It used to be the greater number of donations were sellable.”

Coulter said it upsets her that people in this community would do this.

“It hurts my heart,” she said.

The more money they spend hauling off unwanted trash, the less money they can spend helping people. Eighty-three percent of all money the charity makes goes right back out into the community, Klein-Maciek said.

Jana Jo Garcia, manager of the Saving Grace thrift store, which raises money for the animal shelter of the same name, said the thrift store has also had a lot of unwanted donations.

“Literally, on the Monday before the fee started, I think it was the 31st, we had so many people pull in with just trailers and truckloads of literal garbage,” she said.

“We’ve had people pull up straight faced and give us their kitchen garbage - probably at least five times,” she said.

“People were cleaning out storage units. When we’d go out and say we can’t take this, it’s got mold on it, it’s got rat droppings on it … people were screaming at us,” she said.

Garcia said the Saving Grace store has put up surveillance cameras and signs saying all donations must be approved by management.

“It has definitely changed our dynamic,” she said.

Garcia said Saving Grace has already taken a hit, since the county decreased the shelter’s budget by $40,000 a year. People who dump their trash on the thrift store’s doorstep are just increasing its costs and reducing the amount it can spend on its real mission.

“We’re trying to raise money to help the animals,” she said.

John Vermeer, manager of the Umpqua Humane Society thrift store, said last week he’d seen about a 20 percent increase in unwanted donations. He arrived at work Monday to find things had gotten worse - damaged furniture had been left at the back and the south side of the store.

The mess included box springs, mattresses, two couches with no cushions and an easy chair, he said. These didn’t come straight from anyone’s living room.

“They’re dirty, nasty, like they’ve been sitting out forever,” he said.

Worse, the money the Humane Society will spend hauling away and dumping that trash will take away from its ability to help abandoned animals.

Clearing out the trash he found Monday will cost about $60 - roughly the price of neutering one cat.

___

Information from: The News-Review, https://www.nrtoday.com


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