paradigm shift. noun.
a set of assumptions that explain the way a particular subject is understood.
A paradigm shift occurs when one paradigm loses its influence and another takes over. For example, the prevailing paradigm concerning our universe was for centuries that the sun revolved around the earth (the geocentric paradigm) and this gave rise to maxims such as “the sun rises in the East and sets in the West”. In the example above, a paradigm shift occurred when Nicolaus Copernicus proposed a heliocentric (sun-centred) model of the universe in 1543, refined and popularised later by others such as Kepler and Newton. This new paradigm forced the reassessment of many previously universally held views and beliefs including many Biblical passages that needed to be reinterpreted and we all now know that the sun neither rises nor sets and it is the earth that moves.
Within the current paradigm concerning charity clothing collection bins is embedded the assumption that the illegal dumping, vandalism, theft, littering and antisocial behaviour that occur around charity bins are the sole responsibility of the charity that owns and operates the bins. According to this paradigm, the community at large, the local government, police, and other users of the area and facilities around the bin site bear no responsibility for these acts.The community is outraged at the behaviour. Righteous indignation prevails. “Enough is enough!” “This is not charity, it’s littering!” “The utility of our recreation space is being compromised!” What we need is a paradigm shift to reframe this conversation. So, what could some new paradigms look like?
Case 1: “Adoption” of Charity Bins by Darlington Girl Guides
We were contacted by a Group Leader of the Darlington Scout Group complaining about litter and dumping around our bins outside their hall and demanding that the bins be removed. They copied the Shire of Mundaring and heads of other Guides/Scouts organisations that use the facilities. What paradigm shift occurred?
I wrote back to all parties emphasising the multiple educational opportunities for young people associated with our bins, such as learning about (i) disabilities, (ii) charitable work, (iii) volunteering, (iv) vandalism, (v) illegal dumping, (vi) recycling and re-use, (vii) littering/environment, and (viii) teamwork.
This was taken up by the Leader of the Girl Guides who offered to get their young charges to donate their time once a week to tidy up around the bins, discarding the small items, alerting PQI if there are large illegal dumped items or vandalism.
One evening some months later I attended the Girl Guides meeting and gave them a talk and slide show on all the work that PQI does providing employment to people with disabilities and in reuse and recycling and the feedback was very positive. This “adoption” of our bins in Darlington has been working well for nearly two years now.
Case 2: “Collaboration” with City of Stirling & Local Governments
Many local governments such as the City of Joondalup and the Town of Cambridge have adopted hard line policies concerning charity bins. In the case of Joondalup, the City passed legislation that makes it illegal by definition for a charity bin to be on any City-owned land and this punitive policy resulted in the loss of around 50 charity bins a couple of years ago. The Town of Cambridge has a similar policy and in both cases this was applied blindly even at bin sites that had not experienced any antisocial behaviour and had been in place for many years.
Contrast this paradigm with that of the Cities of Rockingham, Kwinana, Canning and especially Stirling, where the responsible personnel and their management have taken an enlightened and supportive approach. Issues with bins within these local governments are reported in a measured and helpful way with the emphasis being on communication rather than hysterical and threatening outrage. In many cases, the Rangers and other City staff assist with first order tidying of the site and also alert us to cases where bins are full and need emptying.
A large part of PQI’s revenue comes from the resale of donations received through our network of charity clothing collection bins situated throughout the Perth metropolitan area. Charity clothing collection bins are part of all of our communities and all sections of our communities need to share in their benefits and shortcomings.
Yes, the bins sometimes attract undesirables who illegally dump unsaleable items around them. Yes, some vandals paint graffiti onto them, cut the padlocks off and otherwise damage them. Yes, every so often thieves pull clothes from the bins and spread them around the area. These sorts of people also dump around, vandalise and steal from other public amenities such as bus shelters, shops, electrical transformers, trains and parks. On the plus side, charity clothing bins allow charities to provide employment for people with disabilities and look after the disadvantaged while at the same time giving residents the opportunity of recycling their unwanted goods instead of sending them to landfill. The charities that own the bins also provide a valuable service to local governments by removing and paying for the disposal of hundreds of tonnes of illegally dumped goods.