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Trash or Treasure?

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Ian Erwin with just one of the many loads of 'treasure' they receive each week. Photo - Helen Tatchell

By Meg Kennedy

A Ballan op-shop is close to becoming a dumping ground for hard rubbish – and its local volunteers are paying the price.
The Ballan Lionesss Club Steptoes Op-Shop has reported an increase of rubbish dumping; with broken toys, furniture and soiled clothing just some of the unwanted items that are not only taking up space but costing money and time to sort through and dispose of.
Steptoes Op-Shop volunteer Ian Erwin said the problem has become quite costly.
“[We receive] a lot of broken toys, and toys take up a lot of volume. When we take it to the tip, we’re paying by the volume, so the broken toys are useless,” he said.
According to Moorabool Shire Council’s website, drop-offs to Ballan Transfer Station of chargeable items – such as domestic and hard waste – can range anywhere from $30 up to $110 for residents, depending on trailer size.
Mr Erwin said the dumping problem severely increases after Christmas time, with unwanted and broken toys discarded to the shop.
“At the moment I’ve got probably eight woolpacks there of rubbish, that’s been since Christmas. That’s all now go to go in the tip,” he said.
“…It starts when school breaks up, kids are told to clean their rooms up…yet it’s when the rubbish comes in that it all gets ahead of us.”
But it could be a mix of Ballan’s lack of hard rubbish collection and population boom that makes part of the problem.
“In the 40 years that I’ve been here, Ballan’s never had a hard rubbish day. Some people that have moved into this area miss that, and they say, ‘What do we do with the rubbish?’, said Mr Erwin.
Although they’re currently swarmed with unusable items, Mr Erwin said the op-shop is still “happy to accept” second-hand items that are clean and safe to move on.
“We’ll take all clothes as long as their clean. They don’t have to be in good condition, because we can recycle clean and worn clothes. But if they do appear rotten…or they’re wet and smelly, we can’t do anything.
“Everything that’s safe and able to be used, we accept. But we are limited for space, so we can’t put everything away at times. If they leave [the items] for us when we’re here, it’s even easier because we’re only here two days a week.”
“If people are happy to bring it in, we’ll take it if it’s in good condition.”
Moorabool Shire Council was contacted for comment on whether it had considered a hard rubbish collection, or if there could be incentives for not-for-profit stores to use the transfer station at a cheaper price. Council had not responded in time for publication.
The Ballan Lioness Club Steptoes Op-Shop operates on Fridays and Saturdays between 9.30am-3pm.