Here’s why donating baby goods to Op Shops is unsustainableBy Ian Allan
Sending your unwanted goods to an Op shop seems a great way to tick your personal sustainability box. This especially applies to baby goods, many of which are hardly used before they are outgrown by your bubba. The problem is that while eco-ethical standards rest at the consumer level, some baby goods must meet mandatory Australian Safety Standards before they can be sold.
Many Op shops do not have the resources to check the compliance of donated goods to safety standards. Instead, they often send valuable donations such as electrical goods, prams, cots and car seats to the tip.
An Op shop can optionally meet eco-ethical standards, but it must meet product safety standards
We all want to buy goods that meet international standards for manufacturing, ethical treatment of workers, and the environment (see table at the end of this post). Assessing whether or not a manufacturer has sustainable and ethical practices can be time-consuming and is not straightforward. Manufacturer’s responses to questions about the eco-ethical and safety standards that apply to their products vary…
- Some boast about the standards they meet.
- Some are cagey.
- Some green wash.
- Some are simply too small to afford the assessment process. Some can back their “claims” with evidence. Others cannot.
- Some have their designs manufactured in countries that have cheap labour. This group are often reluctant to share the Standards they meet. Doing that would involve divulging their manufacturer, and in turn, make them vulnerable to product-copying by competitors.
So, there are many reasons why it can be hard to track down the eco-ethical status of something.
Parents role in ensuring baby goods are sustainable
Parents also play an important role in how sustainable a baby product is. Up-front thinking about equipment over its entire life can prevent baby goods going to landfill before their time. By this, I mean buy good-quality kit that will last, and then look after it. That way it will be in good shape for your next baby, or someone else’s baby.
Why you should not donate used baby goods to your local Op shop
Believe it or not, safety standards also play an important role in an item’s sustainability. Goods can be subject to recalls and safety updates. Goods that meet current safety standards can be re-homed over-and-over. Goods that do not, cannot!
When you’ve finished with your baby goods, do not donate them to your local Op shop unless you discuss your precious donation with them first. Op shops do not usually have the expertise to deal with safety standards. That’s why many Op shops send items that need to meet safety standards (eg. expensive prams and car seats) straight to landfill.
Yes. You did read that. Many Op shops send your beautiful, well intentioned, much loved donations to landfill !
By the way, sites like eBay and GumTree are not able to guarantee compliance with current safety standards, so be careful if you plan to buy pre-loved baby goods from there.
Here’s where you should send your donations
To avoid having your donations sent to landfill, you need to donate your used baby equipment to organisations that have the skills to check their compliance with current safety standards. St Kilda mums and its sister organisations around Australia are professionals at this.
As a guide, they can take capsules, car seats, booster seats, bouncers and rockers, cots, high chairs and prams that meet the relevant Australian Standard and were manufactured less than 8 years ago. The goods they can re-home are specified in greater detail on their websites.
Some of the Standards that baby goods must meet
In Australia, for legal purposes, the importer of goods is deemed to be manufacturer of the goods. That is a great incentive for importers to ensure that the goods they import adhere to the relevant Australian Standards. It is also a warning not to buy cheap direct-from-china baby goods from online auction sites.
The table below is a selection of the many standards that manufacturers importers must meet.
|Standard||Nature of Standard||Relevance|
|CPSIA (USA)||Product safety standard for goods intended for children|
|EN71 (Europe)||Product safety standard for toys|
|AS/NZS ISO 8124.1:2002||Safety for toys as explained in this ACCC link||Toys|
|GOTS (Global)||Ecological and social aspects of processing organic fibres||Textiles|
|ISO 14001 (Global)||Environmental facets of manufacturing (eg. air and water quality surrounding the factory)||All goods|
|ISO 9001 (Global)||Quality assurance standard|
|Oeko-Tex® (Global)*||Goods that meet this standard will not contain chemicals at harmful levels.||Textiles and fabrics|
|OHSAS 18001 (Global)||OH&S – Worker safety||All goods|
|Fabrics and Plastics|
|AS/NZS 1754||Capsule, car seat, booster seat safety|
|AS/NZS 2088: 2000||High chair and pram standard|
|AS/NZS 2172||Standard relating to cots|
Some of the many Standards that apply to baby goods.