An elderly man being fined more than $300 for leaving books outside a Salvation Army store has sparked fierce debate.
Hairdresser Dan Alessio told the local newspaper, the Northcote Leader, that he left a box and two shopping bags of books outside the Salvation Army store at Fairfield in Melbourne’s northeast on March 6.
The 78-year-old told the publication he dropped his donation off about 7.15am as he made his way to work.
But two months later, he claims council handed him a fine of $322.28 for littering.
Sunrise discussion panel participants on Monday morning debated whether Mr Alessio was in the right, with sport journalist Mark Beretta pointing out that dumping near charity shops is a big problem.
Mr Alessio has appealed the fine but to no avail.
“My only mistake was not to bring it in when the shop was open,” he told the Leader.
Mr Alessio added the fine has caused him stress and anxiety.
“I wake up at 2am — can’t sleep — I’ve got to work all bloody week to get this money,” he said.
Fine described as ‘a joke’
Ben Davis, a journalist with 7News, told Sunrise “poor old Dan” “didn’t do the wrong thing”.
“The fact they are enforcing this fine is a joke,” Davis said.
But Mark Beretta said people sometimes leave items outside the store which they’re too lazy to take to the dump.
“It’s a big problem around the charity bins at the moment,” he said.
However, Beretta added Mr Alessio was “obviously trying to do the right thing”.
“It is a bit tough,” he told Sunrise.
On Twitter, the fine had people divided.
Radio station 3AW gave listeners the opportunity to vote on the issue in a Twitter poll.
It found that 48 per cent of people agreed with the fine while 52 per cent didn’t.
Kate and Quarters are locked in a furious debate this morning: should you be fined for dumping books outside the op shop?
— 3AW Breakfast (@RossAndJohn) July 7, 2019
“Leaving things on footpaths is just irresponsible and lazy,” one woman wrote.
However, one man tweeted Mr Alessio “made the effort to box and transport the books within the time they have available. Not everyone can adhere to the shop hours”.
Charities spending ‘millions’ on cleaning
In a statement to Yahoo News Australia, Darebin Mayor Susan Rennie said charity stores are “often used as dumping grounds” for people who “cannot be bothered to take their unwanted items to the tip”.
“Other times, items are dumped outside by well-meaning people, however, these items can become contaminated and hazardous while exposed and are no use to charity shops,” Cr Rennie said.
“These charity organisations are then forced to spend millions of dollars in order to lawfully get rid of these dumped items.”
Cr Rennie added there are “ample warning signs” for people who choose to dump things outside of charity stores.
“Donations should only be made when the shop is open. Alternatively they can be placed in a large charity shop donation bin, but they must not be left dumped on the ground outside,” Cr Rennie said.
‘We encourage donations to our stores during opening hours’
The Salvation Army’s customer experience manager Aife O’Loughlin told Yahoo News Australia in a statement council gave the fine after spotting the man littering outside the store on CCTV.
“We encourage donations to our stores during opening hours or by calling our free home collections number (13 SALVOS),” she said.
“Together with our local communities, we can work to ensure no goods are left outside our stores when we are closed, meaning donations don't get damaged or stolen and can be used to raise funds for the people in need of assistance across Australia,” she said.
The Salvation Army’s website says that people who leave donations to deliver them during business hours so they can be “safely received”.
“It’s illegal to leave goods outside stores after hours as it creates a public hazard,” the page reads.
“Rain can also damage donations left outside, resulting in us having to dispose of them.”
For more information on how you can donate to the Salvation Army this winter click here.
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