Millions of householders are being duped when making donations to door-to-door charity bag collectors, it has been claimed.
Just around a third (30%) of items donated to charity via letterbox charity bags actually stand a chance of ending up in high street charity shops - with most of it sold abroad for private profit, according to new research by the British Heart Foundation (BHF).
Many charities, often those without shops, do deals with commercial firms who collect door-to-door for them with bags emblazoned with the charity logo.
But the company keeps all the donated goods and then re-sells them for profit, mostly to overseas markets. They then make a royalty payment to the charity, but as little as 5% of the cash made goes back to good causes, according to the BHF.
In some cases charities are getting £50 to £100 per tonne of goods collected when, in fact, the goods can sell abroad for anything up to £1,800.
This is now a lucrative industry, with householders inundated with charity bags as firms chase millions of pounds of profits from the trade.
The poll by the BHF showed 70% of charity bags an average householder receives are from such commercial companies, working with charities, by selling the donated items overseas.
The BHF survey also found 65% of those polled were not aware these commercial companies exist and people mistakenly think all of the money raised goes to good causes.
The survey said when householders are told of the arrangement it leaves 85% of them "shocked, cheated and disheartened". The increase in charity bag collections has led to an estimated loss of donations direct to BHF shops worth £4.6 million in the last two years, said the charity.
The BHF released its findings in support of their Big Donation campaign for September, appealing for good-quality clothing, shoes, accessories, CDs, DVDs, books, toys and bric-a-brac to stock their 670 shops nationwide.