Sports gear, chainsaws, carpets and woolly jumpers were among the items clogging up space at airports and docks.
A new report by the Red Cross highlights how unrequested goods are hindering disaster relief efforts and often end up in landfill.
Aid groups are hoping to divert the generosity of Australians to cash donations instead because they say it’s a more effective way to help those most in need.
Vanuatu was also inundated with unsolicited donations such as high heels, handbags, heavy blankets and canned food in more than 70 shipping containers after Cyclone Pam in 2015.
Ten months on from the disaster, 18 containers remained uncollected and had accumulated $2 million is storage fees.
More than half the canned food items had expired.
The Red Cross says containers of unsolicited goods divert relief workers’ attention from helping the worst affected people.
Australian Council for International Development spokeswoman Joanna Pradela said people’s well-meaning actions were doing more harm than good.
“Instead of donating household items, we would encourage people to sell them online or at garage sales and local markets, and donate the proceeds,” she said.
The Red Cross report acknowledged humanitarian agencies had to do more to build community trust that donated money would be used in an effective and timely manner.
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