IN an average week I see roughly 40-50 bin bags of donations arrive through our doors. It is impossible not to see each bag as a physical representation of Glasgow’s generosity and kindness in welcoming people. Filled with the things that people need to stay warm, to feel more at home and to entertain themselves and their family, the donations keep pouring in week after week.

We need them. We want them. But sometimes it is really hard not to see the volume of consumption as a little overwhelming.

As a firm believer in one person’s rubbish being another person’s treasure, I fully understand the desire to see things recycled and re-used. Bus as the bags begin to pile up at back of the donation space, I often find myself questioning where it all comes from and why people don’t need it anymore. Of course, there are things that are donated because they no longer fit the original wearer, but the volume of clothing donations are far greater than outgrowing alone.

We are consuming huge amounts of clothes and toys and just general stuff, not because of need but because of want. And when the want passes, often while the labels are still attached, the items may make it to a charity or a recycling centre or they may end up in landfill. In the UK we send 700,000 tonnes of clothing to collections, recycling centres, textile banks and charity every year and on top of that 350,000 tonnes also go to landfill.

This week, after a monthly event that welcomes people to take what they need from piles upon piles of clothes, household items, toys and books, we set off in the van to donate the remaining items to charities that could likely use them before we held our next pop-up event; safe in the knowledge that we would have at least the same again arrive from the donation drop-offs over the next couple of weeks. At each shop or organisation we was told they were full. Their stock rooms bulging with bags and boxes full of people’s pre-Christmas clearouts. The confusion of feelings was clearly felt by everyone; joy at having more than is needed, hope that we can reach those most in need but also worry at the volume of other stuff that no one seems to know what to do with.

The recognition that we rely on a certain level of overconsumption in order to deliver what we do and meet the demand of those that we are trying to support, does not appease the uneasy feeling and concern at the sheer volume.

Yes, there are organisations who rely on donations to function, but often one of the main reasons they continually source donations is due to so much of what they receive not being what they asked for or suitable to be passed on to people they work with. It seems that the line between responding to a specific request from a cause and simply donating to clear space has become blurred. Are we, more often than not, donating to charity to appease our consumer guilt? And if we paid slightly more attention to what we actually needed, would we be able to better meet the needs of the organisations that we choose to support?

I certainly do not have the answers. I am forever torn between wanting people to continue to consume the unnecessary so that we can provide the necessary, and wanting people to stop and think more. But at the time of year where people frantically rush out to the shops to purchase the perfect gift, one thing we can all do is consider the lifespan of the items that we purchase.

Whilst a festive jumper may do someone else a good turn in the cold winter months, if the thought crosses your mind that the item may end up in landfill, please put it down and go and buy the guy sat outside Princes Square a coffee instead.