When junk becomes trash
Thrift store, nonprofits become dumping grounds
By William Ferchland
Tribune staff writer
Sometimes one person’s trash is another person’s … garbage.
A thrift store and several charity agencies that rely on donations and hand-me-downs have become increasingly exacerbated because of unusable televisions, soiled mattresses and three-legged chairs being dumped by people under the cover of night.
James Dalton, owner of South Lake Tahoe Antique and Thrift Company, became fed up with the dumping of junk at his business.
“Last week the straw that broke the camel’s back was someone had dropped off a four-piece sectional sofa and the dump charged me $6 a piece to throw that away,” he said.
While the cost is not eye-popping, repeated trips to South Tahoe Refuse Company to discard other people’s junk can stress the profits of nonprofit agencies and small businesses.
Most of the blame by the dumpees concentrates on the absence of an outdoor dump at South Lake Tahoe and the price of dropping off unwanted goods. The lone refuse facility is actually a transfer station where trucks haul garbage to a dump outside Sparks.
Marlene Back rolls her eyes in frustration at the dumpers. Back, who helps run The Attic, a thrift store that relies on donations, caught a man removing items from his SUV Saturday night.
Fuming, Back demanded he return the bags of clothes, compact disc holder and box back into his car. She even noted his license plate number.
Monday mornings are the worst for Attic employees. Donations, in the form of junk or not, are either placed on the outside of the metal fence that surrounds the store or they find items in disarray after being tossed over.
Even though some night dumps might contain a few sellable items, those that don’t have value have to be hauled by The Attic. Dump fees are paid for by the thrift store where profits are reserved for needed equipment at Barton Memorial Hospital.
“If we can’t sell it then it doesn’t help our cause,” Back said. “It takes away money we’re trying to get to the hospital to get a dialysis machine.”
Back can take condolence that it could be worse.
“Christmas Cheer gets totally dumped on,” she said.
The charity organization Christmas Cheer doesn’t have a fence. Instead, its defense is two red and white “No Dumping” signs promising the premises are watched by 24-hour surveillance to obtain license plate numbers. Another sign taped on the glass takes on a softer tone, asking donors to “Please do not leave anything” and that donations won’t be accepted until after Christmas.
Someone Thursday didn’t heed the demands and request. A couple boxes of clothes and children’s toys were left abandoned at the front door of the organization, which was closed for Veterans Day.
“It’s an ongoing problem every single week,” said volunteer Joanne Shope.
The organizations’ trash bills have climbed. Bags that are left are ripped open by passersby, contents spilled into the street and trampled by cars.
“Good things get destroyed and bad things get trashed and we don’t need either one,” she said.
Dalton has placed signs at his thrift company store with minimal results.
“I think they help somewhat but it’s not a perfect solution,” he said.
Old mattresses are the worst. Besides being unusable, those out in the elements are wet, heavy and have a bad odor, Dalton said.
But sometimes, trash takes the form of treasure in a set of dishes or a bundle of books.
“I’m always very grateful for that,” he said. “It compensates for some of the things that are not so nice but lately I’ve been getting a whole lot of things that have not been so nice.”
South Lake Tahoe has ordinances against dumping and littering on private property. Those who are caught can be fined and cited, or scolded by workers.
“There’s not a whole lot we can do unless we catch the person,” said South Lake Tahoe police Sgt. Danny Mosqueira.
– E-mail William Ferchland at firstname.lastname@example.org