Our charity shops are one of our core income streams and we are always grateful to the generosity of those who choose us as their charity to donate to. 

We want to make sure that the pre-loved (and sometimes nostalgic or sentimental) items we receive find a new home that's right for them.

But sometimes we do receive donations that have costs attached to managing or disposing of them, perhaps because they are not appropriate or safe for resale.

So we've popped together a short guide to help you to manage items you no longer wish to keep to ensure they end up in the right place, to keep as much out of landfill as possible, and perhaps extend their lease of life a little further.

The 'yes pleases' 

We always welcome donations in the form of clothing, shoes, books and DVDs, bric-a-brac, games, toys and jewellery. All items are quality checked to ensure they are saleable before they go out onto the shop floor. We also have a specialist outlet in Exeter that can accept furniture and some electrical items.

Sometimes items are donated to us that are particularly interesting, unusual or rare, and often these are items we can send to one of our vintage and variety shops in Topsham and Dartmouth

Although we can steam clothing to get rid of superficial creases, we don't have the facilities or resources for washing clothes, so it makes it much easier for us to make items attractive to customers if they are presented to us clean and in good condition. Items that are too worn for resale go off to the rag trade. Paul Sewter, Manager of our Heavitree shop says:

If you are donating jackets or coats for example, even though they may be good quality, if the item is not clean it will go to rag. A good place to check is the area around the cuffs, collar or the hood.

Keen-eyed shoppers will have spotted this poster in our shops.

The hidden costs of donations

Although we can make money out of some of the items we recycle we do sometimes find we are paying for items to be disposed of that we can't sell. Obviously those who donate to us do so because they are hopeful that their gift will help to serve our patients, so we are keen to help donors to find the right place for their donation if we can't accept it. 

What to do with the 'no thank yous'


We can't accept weapons of any kind - even if it is a beautiful antique Saracen sword. If you have something a collector or antiques dealer might be interested in, it might first be a good idea to approach them. Or you can try selling it yourself on eBay - you can still donate the proceeds to us if you like!

The alternative place for weapons is to hand them into the police station and they will know how to dispose of it safely. 

Video tapes

Video cassettes are one of those items that though old enough to be considered collectable (by some criteria) sadly don't have much retail value as the equipment to play them is obsolete. Again, it could be worth seeing if collectors wish to buy them from you by looking online. Some websites have advice about how to make money from particular videos still.

Obsolete tech

There's not much we can do with a cathode ray tube TV nowadays unfortunately. Again, it could be worth looking online to see what kind of old tech people are after. Games consoles are often popular among collectors nostalgic for old games and kit.

Fake goods

We cannot accept any fake goods. If we do receive them then we shred them and they go into our trade waste bins.

Safety equipment & gym equipment

Safety equipment must meet very high safety standards to be sold. Even a bike helmet, which might feel like it's in good condition, cannot be accepted as there is a chance it has been weakened in an accident. It's likely that you will have to take safety items to your recycling centre to be managed there.

Similarly, gym equipment must meet the same rigorous standards, but the metals may be able to be recycled by your local centre too. 

Mobility equipment - age concern

Specialist shops like Age Concern can accept mobility equipment. It's worth finding out where your nearest shop is and then contact them to find out how to manage such items.


Charities like Ride On in Exeter are more than happy to accept bikes. They have the expertise to check the bikes are safe and ready for resale. 

Tech with data

Data protection laws mean we have to manage digital or technical items very carefully. It's important that all items are cleared of data before we receive them. Computer World has some good tips about how to erase data on old devices.


For reasons of hygiene, unless the seal on an item of make up or a beauty product is unbroken, we cannot accept it. You may consider signing up with an initiative like Terracycle, which collects old beauty product packaging and you can raise funds for your chosen charity at the same time.


Even if bedding, duvets, pillows and sleeping bags have been washed, unfortunately we can't resell them. We recommend donating them to a local animal charity who will be very grateful for your help keeping the animals comfortable and warm.

Plastic or incomplete toys

Good quality, complete toys make a great income for us as they can sell very quickly. Unfortunately we are unable to sell items like jigsaw puzzles that are missing even one piece, or a toy car with a lost wheel. If your Hungry, Hungry Hippos set has no balls, or your Connect 4 a shortage of tokens, then sadly we can't sell them and the whole item goes into our trade waste, which has a disposal cost attached. There are people out there who do incredible creative things with recycled plastics made from old, chunky, plastic toys, so it could be worth looking into some alternatives, otherwise these are very difficult to recycle. 

The other restriction is that in a shop there's limited space. A manager will prioritise shelf space for a toy that will sell and raise more than a toy that takes up a lot of space for not very much, so a bag of plastic Happy Meal toys is not likely to get the same privilege as something like a complete Lego set.

We are always grateful to be selected as the charity that receives donated items. We understand that those items are valuable and can make a difference to our helicopters. Find out where your nearest Devon Air Ambulance charity shop is.