Donate Locally: Ordinance Would Seek to Limit Donation Bins

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March 19, 2014; WNDU


NPQ has done a number of newswires on disputes regarding donation bins. Now, in South Bend, Indiana, the Common Council intends to hold a hearing on April 14 to consider a proposed ordinance that would limit donation drop boxes to organizations that have a base in the local community.

Debbie Coble, the president of the local Goodwill, commented, “What we’re saying with the ordinance is that you need to have a local presence, so it doesn’t mean that you can’t have your box here, but you need to be a part of our community.” 

Clearly, part of her motivation is to cut down on the number of externally managed donation bins. She said that the pace of donations is critical to Goodwill. “They’re very important, they’re our life blood. If we don’t have donations then we don’t have items to sell in our stores and our retail stores fund a majority of our programming and helping individuals get back to work,” said Coble.

Bins that are sponsored by organizations out of town not only do not necessarily serve the local community—one local bin promises to spread the proceeds “around the planet”—but they too often litter it up. According to this article, “An overflowing Planet Aid box…seems to indicate that the sponsoring charity is too far away to know when the unit needs to be emptied…. Nearby, an IICD Michigan box was found resting on its side; perhaps an indication that the sponsoring charity is too far away to know when the unit needs to be up-righted.”

In response, the proposed ordinance would require that all boxes be emptied once a week at a minimum and have a designated “attendant” who would have to live locally and respond within 12 hours if problems occur. Boxes would have to be licensed at $25 each.—Ruth McCambridge

  • Patricia McCully

    I strongly encourage the (City Council, County Council, etc) to reconsider the proposed limits on clothing collection bins. My company, CYCLA LLC, is a proud member of the Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles Association (SMART). SMART is the international trade association of for-profit clothing and textile recyclers. We encourage the public to be educated about their clothing recycling options. According to the EPA each year 85% of all used clothing is put into landfills. Rather than limit the public’s recycling options, consider adopting the legislative language developed by SMART that encourages companies like mine to partner with my community, to meet our zoning and appearance standards and to keep clothing pout of our landfills. We support are proud (charity name) locally. Visit to learn more.

  • Wade

    Indeed, South Bend isn’t alone in its donation bin dilemma. Reports from across the country suggest that for-profit and out-of-town nonprofit clothes collectors appear to be causing donations to dwindle at local charities. This raises the concern that there may not be enough donated clothing to support all the groups collecting it, despite the non-local groups’ assurances to the contrary.

    South Bend’s proposed donation bin ordinance is a step in the right direction, but the $25 license fee per bin ― even if assessed annually ― wouldn’t come close to covering all the potential problems, in my opinion. Oh, it might be adequate to reimburse the city for staff time required during the application process and the occasional drive-by inspection. But officials don’t seem to have assessed the real costs of cleaning up bins causing blight, and, most disconcerting, bins being placed without permits in open defiance of city regulations. Both issues have occurred elsewhere.

    It’s not good that Planet Aid and IICD don’t take care of their bins sometimes, but both companies have faced a storm of media criticism for more disturbing reasons.

    First, Planet Aid: the Chicago-based CharityWatch gave the nonprofit an “F” grade after analyzing its 2012 tax form and audited financial statements, determining that Planet Aid spent only 27% of its expenses on programs.

    A charitable spending ratio of 27% is certainly too low, but the actual figure may be far lower than even that. In 2009, WTTG News in Washington DC examined Planet Aid’s then most recent tax records and noticed many of the overseas charities Planet Aid claims to support have the *same address*. A list of South African charities was shown in example. But the South African Embassy told WTTG that those groups are NOT registered charities.

    WTTG’s investigation found that ALL of the charities listed in Planet Aid’s most recent tax return are controlled by the same parent organization — a group called International Humana People to People Movement, which, according to its own web-site, *also* controls Planet Aid. (Humana People to People is not affiliated with the American health insurer ‘Humana’.)

    Worse, Danish prosecutors link Humana People to People and Planet Aid to an alleged cult called the Tvind Teachers Group. Five leaders of this group are Interpol fugitives wanted in their native Denmark in connection with a multimillion-dollar tax-fraud and embezzlement scheme.

    “CharityWatch Debunks Planet Aid’s Recycling Program” ― CharityWatch; 2011:

    “Kindness into Cash” ― WTTG News, Washington DC; 2009:

    [the description box of the above video has further information; click on ‘Show more’ while on that page.]

    (concluded in my 2nd comment)

  • Wade

    (my 2nd comment)

    IICD, which is short for ‘Institute for International Cooperation and Development,’ is also said to be linked to Tvind. IICD is phasing in its new name, ‘One World Center’ (OWC). Besides its clothes donation bin program, OWC runs two “schools” claiming to train volunteers for humanitarian projects overseas. One school is in Dowagiac, Mich.; the other is in Williamstown, Mass.

    The IICD/OWC schools have elicited numerous complaints from former volunteers, with allegations ranging from low standards of “training” to dire living conditions, unreasonable work hours, bullying and even a “cult-like” atmosphere. These volunteers further claim they were required to beg for money on American city streets and were exploited as free labor benefiting Tvind-owned businesses.

    A third alleged Tvind-run school — “Campus California” — once operated in Etna, CA, but reportedly closed under mysterious circumstances in late 2009. Campus California has since relocated to the San Francisco Bay Area, continuing only with its clothes collection program.

    A call in 2010 to the phone number listed on Campus California’s website was automatically re-routed to the IICD school in Dowagiac. “Anthony” answered, and assured the caller that IICD and Campus California were “one and the same.” With that in mind, watch this news investigation of Campus California and “Gaia Movement USA,” yet another alleged Tvind-run nonprofit:

    “Behind the Green Box” ― CBS San Francisco; 2006:

    [see the description box of the above video for more info.]

    Please research before you donate or volunteer. Thanks for letting me express my opinions.

  • Anthony Nugent

    Hi Wade,
    This is the ‘Anthony’ who took the phone call in Michigan, the call was not rerouted, it was my cell phone. I participated in the program in California, and when I returned from a year working at a Teacher’s Training College in Mozambique I decided to stay and do more. After some time in California we decided to move everybody to the school in Michigan, you see we are part of a movement called DRH. After we left Etna, the pipes froze, the sprinkler went off for days, and the building was destroyed so we never returned. So when I took the call from a CCTG poster, I was here in Michigan, and since the volunteer program is the same in all the schools that are part of the movement, I used the language I used.
    I do not know what resources you use to get your information, but you sound very suspect in your opinions. Why don’t you come visit us here in Dowagiac and have dinner? We could meet, you could also meet many of these amazing people (Development Instructors), some who have returned from projects inn Africa and the others on their way.