It’s early on Monday morning and Nelson’s Koha Shed is already knee-deep in unusable donations.
From broken mops, stained clothing and ripped furniture, soggy from the night’s rain, shed manager Cara Gledhill estimates this haul will cost them up to $400 to dispose of.
“This is pure dumping. This is what will close us,” she says.
The Koha Shed is a place where people can come and receive donated goods at no cost. It has been run from two shipping containers in the Victory Community Centre carpark since 2016 and has helped countless people in need.
But Cara says the shed is feeling the full brunt of rising landfill costs, with more and more people struggling to afford to dispose of their rubbish.
“We don’t generate any money. When someone drops off an unusable mattress, that’s a trip to the dump.”
The shed receives a cash donation from Port Nelson and a discounted skip, but Cara says all that is spent on dumping.
“Over Christmas, we had the most monumental amount dumped on us. We couldn’t even get to the door.
“I know most people are trying to do the right thing and we acknowledge that dumping is expensive, but people need to ask themselves, ‘is it actually helpful?’”
Cara says they’ve have had a security camera installed twice, but both were taken down by vandals.
And with the shed being in a school and community centre carpark, Cara urges people to be mindful of what they are leaving there.
“Some people are dropping off knives and handbags with medical implements. Anything that is left outside that shed is going to be fossicked through.”
Cara also says people need to drop things off during their opening hours.
“Some things that people drop off are in good condition, but all it takes is some rain to make them unusable.
“Those things could be used by someone that really needs it. It’s frustrating, and it’s a waste.”
She says they can connect people with unwanted items to those who could use them.
“They just need to get in touch.”
Victory Community Centre manager Rebecca Greig says she fully supports the Koha Shed in what they do but has noticed a recent increase of unusable or damaged goods left outside.
“I know the cost of dumping this rubbish is expensive and time consuming for the Koha Shed team. The need is there, but it’s not a dumping ground.”
The Koha Shed is open Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 11am – 2:30pm, depending on weather and volunteer availability.
Cara says they are always looking for new volunteers and people can message them through their Facebook page or email firstname.lastname@example.org to help, or to donate items.