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The needs in a humanitarian crisis are constantly shifting, and donated goods are not usually the best solution. It can take a lot of resources to manage, sort, and dispose of unneeded items in countries which are providing emergency support.

If you are involved in or are planning to setup a local appeal for goods make sure:

  • you know in advance how the goods are going to get to the people in need,
  • you have accurate information on exactly what items are needed, and
  • you know how the goods will be removed and potentially disposed of if they can’t be used.

The best route is through an established charitable organisation with experience of delivering aid to areas in crisis, but check with the organisation before you begin any collections. Delivering goods directly to areas in crisis should only be done by organisations with a lot of experience in this area. Usually it’s much more effective – and often more cost effective and efficient - for them to purchase goods as close as possible to where they are needed.

Dealing with surplus goods

If your community has already gathered items, and now find that you can’t distribute them as you had first intended, you may want to consider alternative ways to distribute the items so they are used in a positive way.

First, do a stock take of all the collected items so that you understand what you have and can ensure they are clean, good quality and, if food items, have a significant period before the use-by dates.

  • If you have good quality, re-usable items you could sell them locally at fundraising events or online and donate that money to an appeal.
  • Get in contact with local refugee support charities to find out what items they might need for displaced people on arrival. You may have to arrange for short term local storage. This could be costly, so if you haven’t distributed the goods within 8 weeks then you may want to think about other options.

Redistributing the collected items will make a positive difference to charities in your area who are helping people in need.

  • Contact your local charity shops to see if they can give away or sell items of clothing, blankets, shoes and other items.
  • Consider redistributing the items to Scottish charities who are supporting those in need. You could contact with your local food bank, ‘new start’ organisations, or Fareshare to offer items they might be able to distribute.
  • Reach out to your local Third Sector Interface in case they know of a way to use surplus items rather than disposing of them.
  • The British Red Cross can also provide practical advice on how to deal with donated goods. To speak with them you can call: 0131 338 5700 and choose option 4, “anything else”.

If it is not possible to use or sell the collected goods, consider re-use or recycling:

  • Contact your local council to find whether they have any need for the goods, can help with storage or can put you in touch with your recycling centre.
  • Offer goods to a ‘reuse hub’ or free online recycling sites.
  • Finally once all other options have been exhausted the final course of action would be to dispose of any unwanted goods at your local recycling centre.

When making decisions about how to use or redistribute the items you have collected, engage with the community who made the donations to explain the reasons for your decisions.

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