Illegal dumping leaves Goodwill worker ‘astounded.’ Tacoma, you’re better than this

A picture is sometimes worth a thousand words, and a picture we received this week from a Tacoma Goodwill store employee speaks volumes about how some people behave with reckless abandon under the pretense of doing a good deed.

Even more shameful is that this hurricane zone of furniture, clothing and random household flotsam is a fairly typical sight behind the Goodwill store on East 72nd Street. Other thrift stores in the region have also become after-hours dumping grounds, particularly during summer months when people tend to change addresses and jettison unwanted items.

Way to go, Tacoma. It takes a lot of nerve to commit illegal acts of exploitation masquerading as charitable donations.

Starting this month, the 72nd Street Goodwill has stopped taking donations, including merchandise it normally accepts, as it prepares to close at the end of the year — part of a regional streamlining of retail operations. But that hasn’t stopped people from offloading their junk under cover of darkness to save themselves a few bucks and a trip to the landfill.

Goodwill employee Nathaniel Williams says the mess he confronts nearly every day reflects poorly on the care Tacomans have for their city. He’s right.

“Leaving stuff overnight at a Goodwill Center and acting like a magical fairy will appear from the stars and sweep it all away constantly leaves me astounded,” Williams shared in an email, along with the telltale picture. The Lincoln High School and Western Washington University graduate is working at Goodwill part-time while studying for the law-school entrance exam.

The unregulated setting also attracts scavengers — what Williams calls “a free for all that can lead to dangerous situations during the dark night.” It detracts from the controlled distribution of goods to homeless and low-income patrons during regular store hours.

All this is happening during a historically bad global market for recycled wood, plastic and other materials. The downturn is not only running up your monthly municipal solid waste bill, it’s forcing Goodwill to haul more and more loads to the landfill.

This year, the organization’s out-of-pocket recycle/salvage costs for the 15-county region will reach nearly $1.3 million, not including storage and transport. That’s a 42.3 percent increase over 2015, according to a recent report by TNT staff writer Debbie Cockrell.

Every dollar spent at the landfill is a dollar that could’ve been invested in Goodwill’s free career training programs, such as Its Warehouse and Advanced Manufacturing program in Tacoma.

Tacomans need to brush up on what is and isn’t accepted by Goodwill and similar organizations. They should be generous donating resellable items to the seven other Goodwill stores in Pierce County. And they should keep eyes open for dumping and report scofflaws to law enforcement.

Unfortunately, it’s easy for Americans to dump their stuff, drive away and ignore the significant downstream costs of our throwaway society.

Fortunately, a picture comes along once in a while that’s worth a thousand words.