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Recycling: Food, clothes and Electronics Thrown Away by Retailers - Change your attitude and make a difference.

Updated on January 8, 2012

Supermarket Bins Full Of Food.

Retail Waste.

We live in a society that is constantly bombarded with the words Save the Planet, Recycle, Carbon Footprint, etc and so on. Food is automatically more expensive when it is labelled Organic. And of course these days in England, we are charged a small amount of money to buy plastic shopping bags to carry our food after we have already spent pounds in the shop in question. Now, I don't know about you, but I don't mind adding a few pence to my bill if it is for good things, like Save the Rain forest, or Give to Animals. Who would? But something has come to my attention recently that is beginning to drive me mad! In fact it is beyond belief. People are starving in the world, local pensioners have to go without because for the simple reason that they don't receive enough pension money, and of course in this time of recession, lot's of workers have lost their jobs.

We are all finding it hard. Even if we are lucky enough to have jobs, now that VAT has gone up to 20p in the pound, everything is so much more expensive. Recycling is one of those issues that concern all of us.

So my question is,

Why aren't Retailers doing anything?

Inside Information.

I have been lucky enough to work for a variety of different retailers in the past. My main job has always been office work, but in times of redundancy and lack of anything in that area, I have, of course, turned to shop work. And some of it has been very rewarding. The job that I really loved doing was working in a Charity shop. I suddenly found out that I was really good at it! I had never done this sort of selling before, but all of a sudden, I realised that I could organise, place the right goods out on show, and in the space of a week, managed to nearly double the earnings!

But that was the good thing about it. One of my main jobs was to sit in the back room and sort out the big bags of 'new' clothes and ornaments that came in. There were also lots of toys and of course electronic devices. We were not allowed to sell the electronic goods just in case they were faulty. This was understandable, as we didn't want to be shut down or sued for any accidents that may have happened to the buyer. So of course we had to do something with the items.

So what did we do? Did we send them of to be recycled? No. We put them in the rubbish bin. But that was not all. If there were any clothes that were slightly stained, they had to go too. Obviously there were quite a few of these, and to be fair, we did send them to the recycling firm. But a lot of them were 'unsuitable', so in the bin they went.

Charity Shops Throw Away Your Generosity.

I wasn't there that long, so was unaware of what happened at that time to other goods. Since then I have found out that there are lots of things going in the bins. Out of curiosity, I have a friend there that allowed me to go and investigate, I went there after dark to look in the bins. And I was horrified. There were lamps, books, CDs, DVDs and lots of clothes and bags.

And they were all going to be sent to the rubbish tip!

Food Waste.

And More Food!

More Investigation.

So, out of curiosity, I decided to investigate further. I went to my local supermarkets. We are all aware that at the end of the day, the staff will put prices down on the perishable goods so that they will be sold off quickly. There are certain goods that cannot be left in the shop until the next day. Date marked sandwiches, out of date sausage rolls and of course bread. But did you know that whatever was left over at the end of the day, was automatically thrown outside into the big rubbish bins?

Evidently, there is so much food left over, it can actually fill three big industrial bins! And that is just one supermarket! There are three in my small town. Imagine that.

From Cakes To DVDs.

I have also worked in a small bakery in the past. Admittedly they allowed us to take home any baked goods that we want too, at the end of the day. But still lots of food was wasted and thrown in the bins.

But I think the final straw was what I found out today. Evidently a certain big DVD retailer, here and in the States, actually throws away thousands of DVDs at the end of every month because they are 'Out of Date'!

Not only do they throw them away, they make sure that the staff breaks up all the DVDs before putting them in the bin! This is to make sure that nobody can actually take them home. In this particular store, you can take back your DVDs and get either money for them, albeit a few pence, or instead you can have a couple of DVDs, free rental. Good for them.

So What's The Solution?

What the Retailers Should Do.

So what is the answer? Is it really necessary to throw away all the food, clothes and thousands of other goods? And why do they do it? If you ask them this question the answer is usually a very vague, 'Well, the food is stale, and needs to be thrown away' Or 'The clothes are too filthy for people to buy them'.

Here's a Thought. Give it Away!

Just think for one minute, how different it would be if the retailers and owners actually gave away all these goods.

1. Give the Food To The Pensioners and low income families.

So how could this be arranged? Easily. After the supermarkets shut for the evening, put the food on tables or in boxes, and allow pensioners or their representatives to come and pick it up. They can show prove of age with their pension books or ID. And this would work for people on welfare too. Of course, they could also give it away to anybody that wanted it. We spend enough money in their shops, it certainly wouldn't hurt them!


Volunteers could take home clothes to wash and sew up, and send them to the countries that need them. I am sure that someone living in a third world Country, or even in our own Country who has hardly any money coming in, will not be so fussy as to worry about a slight stain when they are freezing cold!

Electrical Goods.

Most electrical goods have a high metal content that is perfect for making money at a scrap yard. Surely one employee can take time out to pile it all up and pack it off to the scrap yard. And any electrical goods that are mainly plastic, can be recycled back into use.


There are so many ways to make money for charity with DVDs. I cannot believe that any retailer, however big, can actually justify throwing away thousands of DVDs a month!

1. Give them to a charity shop! Obvious! Especially when there are three Charity shops in my town about 200 feet away from the DVD store!

2. Package them and send them to hospitals, orphanages, and learning centres. Children love to learn even if it is just watching Bambi. And adults who are ill or injured in Hospital would love to have something to take their minds off of their pain.

3. Give them to the local library.

4. Give them away!

Everything Must Go.

 From bags to belts, toys to shoes, there is nothing that cannot be recycled. Admittedly toys have to pass certain standard tests, so cannot be resold in Charity shops or privately. But I have actually had to sort out cuddly toys, and throw most of them away because they don't conform to British standard testing. Toys can be dangerous for small children, but the cuddly toys that I dealt with were mainly foreign or hand made. In some of the cases they were perfect but because they didn't have the CE label on the side, they had to be binned. Surely they could have been given to someone who could check them vigorously and if they were fine, then given to hospitals or orphanages. Especially the woollen knitted dolls. I have actually got a few in my home, sitting on the window ledge! They were so gorgeous I couldn't bare to throw them away. With a bit of careful checking, they would have been fine.

Retailers sit up and take notice!

So how difficult was that? Surely with a bit of initiative, retailers and big money entrepreneurs can actually do something by getting off their backsides and adjusting to the world that we live in. It is hypocritical to demand that we all take care of our Carbon Footprint when they do so little to help the Country and themselves. And in the long run they will be making a profit for their own shops and stores by being generous. I am sure the general public would spend more money, and willingly, if they knew that their retailers were actually doing something to help save the World.


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    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Freegive is about connecting people who are giving and getting unwanted items for free in their own towns. It's all about reuse, recycle and keeping good stuff out of landfills. It's completely free to join. Freegive group is active in 124 countries across the world. Find a group near you at

      Items we throw away such as bed, television, clothes, furniture, books, printer, toys, sofa and computer can pass to someone in your community.

    • Nell Rose profile imageAUTHOR

      Nell Rose 

      8 years ago from England

      Thanks for reading leslie, nell

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      This is a very interesting hub and I voted up!!

    • Nell Rose profile imageAUTHOR

      Nell Rose 

      8 years ago from England

      Hi kikalina, thanks so much for reading, nell

    • kikalina profile image


      8 years ago from Europe

      Your article is spot on and touched many sore points!

    • Nell Rose profile imageAUTHOR

      Nell Rose 

      10 years ago from England

      Hi, Glenn, I am so pleased! it is funny how we forget or don't think of these sort of things, glad I could help, cheers nell

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 

      10 years ago from Long Island, NY

      Thanks Nell. Your hub came at just the right time. I recently purchased a large inventory of parts for my business but it included tons of plastic casings that I don't need. They just came as part of the deal. Thanks to you, I did a Google search and found a plastic recycling place near me who pays for it. Love ya! Voted up.

    • Nell Rose profile imageAUTHOR

      Nell Rose 

      10 years ago from England

      Hi, toknowinfo, thanks for reading it, I think that the head of supermarkets have so much money they don't care now, it is a shame, especially for the people who are always hungry, thanks for the rating, I really appreciate it, nell

    • toknowinfo profile image


      10 years ago

      Great article, Nell. We really do live in a throwaway society and it seems these businesses think there are no repercussions. It is a shame to see, when some simple changes could really make the world a better place. Rated up and awesome.

    • Nell Rose profile imageAUTHOR

      Nell Rose 

      10 years ago from England

      Hi, TVL, thanks for reading it, it is appalling isn't it, and yes I do agree, we should all go without for a week just to see what it is like and maybe kick the big stores up the backside, if they went without, then they would understand, thanks again nell

    • TheVacationLady profile image


      10 years ago from Everywhere

      So very disturbing! It is so frustrating with how easy it is to recycle today..even electronics, that people simply don't care...let them end up in the landfill. And, yes, let's just throw away food, etc when people are living on the streets with nothing to eat...this all just makes me so angry. You can never appreciate every little thing you have until you have nothing. I think perhaps everyone should have to be "without" for a week and then see if they are so careless with what they throw away. As for grocery stores..isn't that just ridiculous? All, I can really say about said it all!

    • Nell Rose profile imageAUTHOR

      Nell Rose 

      10 years ago from England

      Hi, Tina, I don't think there are such things! they just don't care, thanks again as always, nell

    • Granny's House profile image

      Granny's House 

      10 years ago from Older and Hopefully Wiser Time

      Nell, I have often thought about this too. Why don't they donate the food to the food banks?

    • Nell Rose profile imageAUTHOR

      Nell Rose 

      10 years ago from England

      Hi, Green Lotus, thanks so much, it just made me so mad! there are so many people starving, and freezing, I hope it helps, but I doubt it, the big companies don't care anymore, thanks again nell

    • Green Lotus profile image


      10 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      Nell you have found a new calling. What you have suggested is so powerful and important you've only just begun by presenting this Hub. You are too clever to just put on a protest board...i see great things. Cheers!

    • Nell Rose profile imageAUTHOR

      Nell Rose 

      10 years ago from England

      Hi, Hello hello, thanks for reading it, I hope so too, cheers nell

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 

      10 years ago from London, UK

      Thank is a very good and important message. I hope they take notice.

    • Nell Rose profile imageAUTHOR

      Nell Rose 

      10 years ago from England

      Hi, Audrey, thanks, it does seem to me that these days nobody seems to care, they just blame it on someone else or another big company, I think I will get a protest board out and start ranting! cheers nell

      Hi, lilyfly, thanks so much, I think I will join you! lol cheers nell

      Hi, Healing Touch, that's nice to know, I am glad someone still has a heart to do this, maybe it will eventually catch on, here's fingers crossed! thanks nell

    • Healing Touch profile image

      Laura Arne 

      10 years ago from Minnetonka, MN

      Great hub Nell Rose,

      I also have learned that many throw things away. I work at a non profit though and Panera bread gives my homeless residents bread every Monday. More shops and stores need to do this

    • lilyfly profile image

      Lillian K. Staats 

      10 years ago from Wasilla, Alaska

      Bloody wonderful- you know where I'm going, right? To my local supermarket dumpsters. Thank you...lilyfly

    • akirchner profile image

      Audrey Kirchner 

      10 years ago from Washington

      Good god - wouldn't that be a NO BRAINER? Just throw it away?? I have such a problem with our society these days - it doesn't seem to matter where - everything is just disposable. Remember when back in the pioneer days, they saved every string or every slip of paper? I think we seriously need to have global awareness of how much we throw away.....good article, Nells!

    • Nell Rose profile imageAUTHOR

      Nell Rose 

      10 years ago from England

      Hi, 2uesday, that's right! I remember it, my mum used to get the bread, and even the butchers used to let my mum take meat for the dog! I had forgotten that! so let's bring it back! thanks again, nell

      Hi, Ashantina, I expect that most of your clothes are fine, but sometimes even if it has got a little torn in transit, it goes! thanks again nell

      Hi, Ruby, it is terrible, I have seen it on TV, you would have thought they would have been shamed into doing something about it by now, but no! thanks again nell

      Hi, katie, thanks for reading it, I only hope that the shops do change their ways soon, thanks

      Hi, Joshua, thank you, I just hope the retailers do suddenly get a heart, but I doubt it! thanks again

      Hi, christopher, it would be so easy to cut the waste, it is terrible, maybe we should start a revolution! lol thanks again

      Hi, prasetio, thank you for your nice words, I am sure that if we all helped the world would be a better place, take care nell

      Hi, Genna, I know, I was shocked too! isn't it amazing? unbelievable. thanks again nell

      Hi, Nellieanna, I also remember my mum always darning socks and mending clothes, she never had the money to buy new goods, and even when I first got married I used to sit down on a Sunday afternoon and do some mending too, if you go out to the countryside today, there is so much rubbish, it is disgusting, we have become very lazy and wasteful, thanks so much nell

    • Nell Rose profile imageAUTHOR

      Nell Rose 

      10 years ago from England

      Hi, Nan, thanks for reading it, you are exactly right, what on earth is wrong with letting the homeless people come and take the food? it is beyond belief! we are supposed to be two of the main countries in the world that leads the way in these sort of things, what happened there then? unbelievable, thanks so much for taking time to read it, cheers nell

    • Nellieanna profile image

      Nellieanna Hay 

      10 years ago from TEXAS

      I grew up in a household where the word "waste" was a four-letter word and my parents just didn't do it. Everything had to be used, recycles or kept for the time when it would be needed. Mother signed greeting cards on the bottom 1/8th of an inch so that the bottom could just be clipped off and the receiver could recycle it! That is a small example of the effort she put into conservation. She conserved WATER, even. She used her dish rinse water for her plants and collected rainwater for various uses. The public supply was 'hard" water so the rainwater was good for shampoos. She made over clothes for smaller people in the family. Hems were "let out", rips were repaired so expertly, one couldn't even tell. She literally "rewove" the threads. Of course, socks were darned. Does anyone EVER think of repairing things now? Doubtful. . .

      She also went to the grocery store toward the end of the day and asked to buy some of the produce which wouldn't make it for the next day - and took them home for her gerbils and hamsters. Usually she wasn't even charged for it - it relieved them of a little fraction of their waste.

      I appreciate this hub and its valuable suggestions,Nell - and the eye-opening situations to which most folks wouldn't give a thought of recycling things someone would be overjoyed to have.

      Seems the longer one lives, the more "stuff" accumulates. It's not always really easy to make good disposal of things. But it is worth the effort.

      Besides all other issues, there is the mammoth problem of waste disposal on this planet now. Time was when out in the country, people just dropped pieces of clipped fence wire and nails on the ground. Sure, they are degradable - but not for centuries! I've spent time at the ranch picking up the unsightly things like that which should have been recycled back then before they began to rust and make eyesores on the ground. People expected things to be inexhaustible, including space!

    • Genna East profile image

      Genna East 

      10 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

      Fascinating hub, Nell. I was shocked and dismayed to learn what retailers are doing. Such waste!

    • prasetio30 profile image


      10 years ago from malang-indonesia

      I learn much from you, Nell. I liked your idea about something useless in our home. Better we give to others who really need these things than we save this, but we don't use this. I believe you have felt the power of giving. Just to remind us "better giving than receiving". Thanks for kindness to share this beautiful hub. Vote up. God bless you.

      Love and peace, prasetio

    • christopheranton profile image

      Christopher Antony Meade 

      10 years ago from Gillingham Kent. United Kingdom

      Thanks Nell for highlighting a problem that needs to be addressed.

      Waste is sinful, especially in a world wheree there is so much want.

    • Joshua Kell profile image

      Levi Joshua Kell 

      10 years ago from Arizona

      Hi Nell, great hub. The wastefulness and ingratitude of humankind in this age, will certainly be our undoing. Everybody knows it, but no one does anything about it. Well. . .some of us try - no one seems to care though. I certainly appreciate your doing your part to try and wake folks up. Thanks Nell - take care.

    • katiem2 profile image

      Katie McMurray 

      10 years ago from Ohio

      This is so important and you've covered this in such a wonderful manner. Well done and very helpful tips oon recycling food, clothes and electronics in fact the more we think about it the more we can recycle! We hopefully will all consider how we can live more simply so others can simply live. :) Katie

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Richert 

      10 years ago from Southern Illinois

      This is terrible to learn that this goes on. We have a place here in my little town, called, 'The Helping Hand' It is not run by churches just we the people. It's really great, people who need it, gets it. Thank you for sharing.


    • Ashantina profile image


      10 years ago

      Unbelievable! This is utter nuts.

      I feel gutted that my bag of clothes that I've given to charity could end up in some dumpster at the end of the month.. it defeats the objective of 'charity'.. however, my intention to donate and still stands.

      Was so not aware of this, so sad that all that food goes to waste!

    • 2uesday profile image


      10 years ago

      You are spot on with this topic. I can remember walking past a bakery shop (not a small local one a national retailer) I noticed about 15 blacks sacks lined up in front of the shop. being curious I wondered what they where throwing out at closing time in such quantities. You guessed the bags were full of bread and cakes, I spotted this as they added another sack to the heap. I can remember when bakeries had a shelf of what they termed 'Yesterday's' cakes which were reduced but still edible. Of course it would not be allowed in today's Britain. Another good read by Nell Rose.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      I am glad that you are telling the truth about the waste. We have homeless people living on the street, in care with children. God help them. If they knew where the food is being thrown out they could come and get the food or clothes. I am amazed at the waste. I don't think that people should be living on the streets with so many boarded up houses.

    • Nell Rose profile imageAUTHOR

      Nell Rose 

      10 years ago from England

      Hi, junkseller, I know exactly what you mean! it was the same where I was! in the end I used to tell people about the bins! lol thanks again nell

      Hi, DzyM, I can see that you feel strongly about it like me, it does drive me insane! and I do agree with the people rattling tins under your nose when shopping, only the other day I totally ignored one because he came up to me and rattled it! argghh! I will join you on the soapbox! lol thanks so much nell

      Hi, BJB, thanks for reading it, I am glad you liked it, thanks nell

    • BJBenson profile image


      10 years ago from USA

      You are so right. It is the same everywhere I have been.

      Great informative hub.

    • DzyMsLizzy profile image

      Liz Elias 

      10 years ago from Oakley, CA

      Hi, Nell!

      You are absolutely correct. These wasteful practices are outrageous and shameful.

      It happens here in the states, too. We do have an organization called "Second Harvest" that picks up food from supermarkets, bakeries, and the like, for re-distribution to the poor. But it is a small amount compared with the actual waste.

      When my kids were young, we took the Girl Scout troop to tour the Salvation Army plant in San Francisco. They were always known for refurbishing appliances, mending and washing clothes, and any too far gone with stains or holes were turned into rags. That was back in the mid 1980's.

      Now, they have shut down that part of their operation, and don't want anything not in near-perfect condition. EXCUSE ME, but you're out there soliciting donations of clothing and other items...but you want to get uber-picky? You no longer want could-be-serviceable items that need only a small repair?

      That part of the operation, besides bringing in money for the charity when re-sold, also kept things out of the landfill, long before 'recycling' became the latest buzzword. The other thing it did was to provide training and rehabilitation to people who had developed physical problems preventing them from doing their prior jobs, or a training and re-entry point for people in halfway houses so they could get a job out in society again.

      Now, all that is gone, donations of goods go to waste, no re-training is being done, the list of goods they will NOT accept continues to grow. Nowadays, the charities would rather beg for money! (This is one reason why I find their little silver bell-ringing campaings on street corners at Christmas profoundly irritating, and I decline to drop any coin in the pot.)

      You are oh, so correct in that a homeless person isn't going to care if there is a spot or stain on the coat they get for free! They are in basic survival mode, and their interest is in staying warm, not impressing the fashion police!

      I was raised with the Yankee double-edged ethics of (1) beggars can't be choosers, and (2) use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.

      ***Shaking head and climbing angrily down from soapbox***

      Voted up, useful, and shared!

    • junkseller profile image


      10 years ago from Michigan

      I worked at a thrift store for 3 years so know exactly what you mean. If the average person spent a day in the backroom of a thrift store they would be horrified. Quite literally, I think, half of everything we collected ended up in the dumpster. And a lot of it stuff that shouldn't end up there (like electronics).

      The one that always got me was car-seats. For whatever reason we weren't allowed to sell them but then you always see kids loose in cars. Drove me nuts. If it was me, I always tried to set them out behind the dumpster and hope someone picked them up.


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