Sixty tons of secondhand clothes intended for victims of the Sichuan earthquake will be put up for auction here on Saturday, as nobody wants them, local authorities said yesterday.
Li Huarong, head of the bureau of civil affairs in the Qingbai district of Chengdu, said authorities had run out of space to hold the huge volume of clothes received following the May 12 disaster.
"Once our warehouses were full, we had to rent a badminton court just to store them," she said.
In June, several trips were made to the worst-hit areas of Chengdu to distribute the clothes, but people there simply did not want them, she said.
"It has cost us a lot of money to launder and store the clothes, so we decided it would be better just to auction them," she said.
The story is similar at the central depot for donated items in Chengdu.
Depot chief Zhao Linjiang said about 2.5 million items of secondhand clothing had been received since the earthquake.
"Just a week after the quake, we told people to stop sending us secondhand clothes, but they kept on coming," he said.
"People would just dump them on the ground and leave."
"We received as many clothes in the three months after the quake as we had in the past three years," he said.
As well as having to spend 230,000 yuan ($34,000) on additional warehouse space for the clothes, the depot had also invested a lot of money and time on washing and sorting the clothes, Zhao said.
Despite the outlay, and the fact that authorities in Qingbai have said they were unable to give away their clothes, Zhao said the depot had compiled a report suggesting 3 million yuan be spent on cleaning and disinfecting about 2 million items of clothing, which could be then distributed to people in quake-hit areas.
The report has been sent to the Chengdu bureau of civil affairs for its consideration, he said.
The remaining half a million clothing items could be recycled as mattresses and mops at a cost of 1.7 million yuan, Zhao said.
Chen Kefu, a spokesman for the provincial department of civil affairs, said several cities across Sichuan had reported growing piles of unwanted clothes and that authorities were considering the best ways to deal with them.
Yi Qunya, an official with the Qingbai social affairs bureau, said that any money raised from Saturday's auction will go toward reconstruction projects in the area.
She did not say who the likely buyers of the clothes would be, but invited local people to attend the auction in a bid to ensure transparency.
(China Daily August 27, 2008)