DENVER -- Donation center or trash pile? It's hard to say if you watch recent surveillance camera video from the Salvation Army’s drop-off location on North Broadway.
“Mattresses with no other purpose. They’ve been so destroyed. Televisions with holes right through them. Furniture that’s falling apart. We’ve seen the worst of it,” said Lt. Allison Struck, director of special services at the Denver Salvation Army.
Surveillance camera video shows dirty old mattresses dumped, old broken-down TVs, too. Items left not so much out of charity, but to save the time and expense of going to the landfill.
In another video, guys are seen pulling up on a weekend in a moving truck to drop off a destroyed old couch. Another left used, worn-out tires.
Day and night on weekends when no one is watching, the front gate is used as a dumpster.
“It’s all trash pretty much,” said Shawn McAuley, production manager at the Salvation Army’s Adult Rehabilitation Center.
Every day it’s his job to sift through more trash than treasure. The Salvation Army said up to 13 tons of garbage goes to the landfills every day.
“It’s so cheap, and I think that people think just dumping one TV or one mattress doesn’t make a big deal, but it adds up to an average of about $25,000 a month for us to dispose properly of things we can’t sell,” Struck said.
That’s $300,000 a year and it's money that would otherwise be used to treat people with drug and alcohol recovery, who are working and living here, trying to get their lives back on track.
“Every time somebody dumps something that they know is trash, all they’re doing is taking away the revenue that could be used to save somebody’s life,” McAuley said.
The day FOX31 Denver was on site, there were 22 pallets of TVs in a large semitrailer and each TV cost about 35 cents per pound to properly dispose of.
“One of those was a Sony Trinitron. I happen to know for a fact those are 100 pounds or so. That’s about a $35 expense for that one TV,” McAuley said.
The full cost of dumping one trailer full of TVs was estimated by McAuley at between $3,000 and $4,000.
Don’t get them wrong, the Salvation Army loves donations and needs them.
“Our program depends on people giving things to use so that we can resell items in our stores," Struck said. "But when people dump things that can’t be sold, then it becomes an expense that takes away from our program.”
To make it easy, the Salvation Army offered a list of donations that it cannot use. It will gladly accept everything not mentioned below.
- Don’t drop off furniture that’s beyond repair or has torn upholstery or missing cushions
- Electronics -- especially outdated CRT monitors and old TV sets
- Construction materials
- Broken, worn out, rusted appliances
- Worn out, stained mattresses
- Medical supplies such as medicine and syringes
- No hazardous waste, chemicals or paint
McAuley said it doesn’t matter if the paint is new or not.
“I can’t do anything with it. It could be lead-based, it might not be, I don’t know, and because of that, I can’t take the liability," he said.
It can cost about $400 to dispose of one large drum full of paint. There are no dumping signs posted at the Salvation Army donation sites and it’s also illegal to dump this stuff in the first place.
The Salvation Army does try to rehab and recycle as it can. It makes new furniture out of old furniture that had been dumped all the time.
However, selling it won’t recoup the hundreds of thousands it is losing every year from those treating the place like a landfill.
Also, if you contact the city that you live in, it will provide you with how to properly recycle your trash. Often times, most cities will provide one day a year where they will pick up oversized and unwanted items at the curb.
Other places like Habitat for Humanity take donated materials and local electronic stores such as Best Buy will recycle unwanted electronics.
For more information, visit the Salvation Army's website.