How to secondhand shop, swap and scavenge during lockdown

People at a front door wearing masks, handing over a delivery package.

Whether you enjoy an op shop excursion for the budget-friendly prices or more sustainable consumption, things have certainly changed in how we shop for preloved items.

Secondhand shop doors have swung open and shut as lockdown requirements have changed across the country over the last 18 months. Happily, this hasn’t meant trade has stopped altogether, with many of the major op shop groups including Vinnies, the Salvos and the Red Cross moving to online sales.

Existing online sales platforms like Gumtree and Facebook Marketplace which enable secondhand shopping and swapping between individuals have also had to address pandemic restrictions. And informal social media groups dedicated to collecting and repurposing street finds have also had to question the kind of activity they’re promoting, especially in areas where residents are only allowed to leave home for essential reasons.

This has left many op shoppers and sustainable street bounty hunters with questions and quandaries. Let’s explore a few of these below.

Are op shops open during lockdown?

If you’re in an area where lockdowns limit “non-critical” retail services to click-and-collect or home delivery, like in Greater Sydney and Melbourne, then op shops will be closed. But, there are still options for buying from and donating to op shops.

Looking to buy from op shops during lockdown?

While you can’t walk into a physical store, many op shops have developed nifty online shopping options, either via their own websites or platforms like ebay. These include:

  • The Salvation Army. You can shop directly from the Salvos Stores website for delivery. There’s a choice between standard or express post (which you’ll need to budget for) or a click-and-collect option for shoppers who can visit participating stores in line with government restrictions.
  • St Vincent de Paul Society. The online sales for Vinnies is run through ebay, with bidding and ‘Buy it now’ options. Postage around Australia is $5, and there’s also click-and-collect from specific stores when possible.
  • Australian Red Cross Shop. You can find online Red Cross op shop sales alongside their first aid products and gift cards. Shipping is $10 as standard or free on orders over $100.
  • Lifeline. While there isn’t a central online store for lifeline, individual stores like Lifeline Northern Beaches are selling items through their dedicated sites. Postage costs depend on spend.
  • Wayside Chapel. This Sydney-based charity is operating online via the schmick Wayside Chapel op shop website. Shipping is calculated after check-out based on your order and where you live in Australia. 

Looking to donate to op shops during lockdown?

The important thing to always remember about donating to op shops is that dumping out the front of stores or donation bins is illegal. This goes for new as well as broken or soiled items, as products can be damaged further or stolen if left on the street, and the charities are left to foot the clean-up bill.

There are still some opportunities to donate items to op shops while in lockdown, but these are limited and can’t be done in-store when shops are closed. You are still able to drop off items to Lifeline clothing bins in specific areas, and Vinnies has dedicated donation stations around Sydney in addition to its system of donation bins. However, other groups like the Salvos have halted donations during lockdown.

Can I use Gumtree during lockdown?

Depending on your circumstances, you may still be able to buy and sell goods through Gumtree and other online sales platforms like Facebook Marketplace.

The standard advice from these kinds of services is to first follow any Covid-related government directives in your area. So, if you’re limited to travel within certain distances, don’t go beyond this area to buy or sell items. And if you’re only allowed to leave your home for essential services, a pick-up or drop-off may not be on this list depending on what you’re buying, and postage could be preferable.

In an effort to minimise social contact and the risk of spreading infection, these platforms encourage things like live video inspections over physical interactions, contactless delivery options, contactless pick-ups and drop-offs, going cashless and cleaning items before and after sales. And of course, if you’re in quarantine waiting for a Covid test result, now is not the time to be receiving or sending deliveries.

Can I pick up street bounty during lockdown?

You can find some choice pieces during scheduled clean-up service weeks in your neighbourhood, but grabbing discarded kerbside items gets a little complicated during a global pandemic.

Generally, this is a positive community activity that can help reduce household items going to landfill by extending the life of products. Unfortunately, there’s not clear information from local or state governments around practices like street bounty hunting during lockdown.  

Once again, following government guidelines and hygiene practices is a good starting point. That means no street browsing outside valid lockdown areas or essential trips, and disinfecting items before bringing them home. This could mean some street bounty doesn’t find a new home, but the old adage of ‘better safe than sorry’ is prudent during a pandemic.

If you want to match your financial choices with your sustainable ethos, check out these green loans and ethical banking options.

Or, hear more about ethical shopping from The Finance Burrito in the episode below.