NYC Wants to Make Removal of Phony Clothing Donation Bins Easier

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Thank you

August 17, 2014; Gothamist

A local government crackdown on the large, metal, clothing donation bins so widely used by charities and nonprofits is back in the news—this time in New York City. (Nonprofit Quarterly recently wrote about Evanston, Illinois.) According to the Gothamist website, the City Council will vote on a measure allowing the city to immediately seize the bins that “litter” city streets—a process that now takes more than a month.

“This legislation will remove these eyesores from public locations and hold those who place them accountable,” City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito told the website.

The textile-recycling market has become more than a million dollar industry in the U.S., and clothing donors unwittingly contribute to it by donating to illegally placed bins. The boxes, often labeled with “charity” or “donation” in large letters, are presumably there for people to donate used goods to the needy. But the clothing often ends up back on the market, profiting private companies. Goodwill New York believes that the phony bins take away money from charitable organizations because people believe that they are donating to charity, while they are, in fact, giving money to an entrepreneur.

Last month, New York City inspectors tagged 670 illegally placed units, with the boxes often reappearing not far from where they were removed. To date, the City has had little power to quickly confiscate them, but the new law would allow it to seize the bins faster.

A hearing for the new measure has been scheduled for September. In Evanston, city officials imposed a licensing requirement on the bins in order to regulate their placement and keep the numbers under control, after they began springing up all over town, sometimes with negative neighborhood impacts.

Nowhere does the cooperative relationship between local government and community-based nonprofits matter as much as it does in the placement of those ubiquitous boxes, and by developing a working relationship, city officials and charities can keep unauthorized phony collection boxes off the streets.—Larry Kaplan

  • Wade

    Clearly, the city needs to do *something*. It’s out of control. Besides, New York is not alone in its donation bin dilemma. These things are reportedly causing blight and public right-of-way issues in numerous cities nationwide. Many towns have expressed concern over out-of-town nonprofit and for-profit clothes collectors causing donations to dwindle at local charities. And some even complain that non-local companies are getting a free ride ― paying no local taxes or fees ― even while little or none of the proceeds from their collections benefit the local populace.

    Sadly, even bins that are well-kept and appear more legit are sometimes not what they appear to be. Of particular concern to me are the nonprofit ‘Planet Aid’, with its yellow bins, and the for-profit ‘USAgain,’ which owns the green and white containers. Both companies have placed their drop-boxes in the city as well as in many states across the country. And both have faced a storm of media criticism for disturbing reasons.

    1) For starters, the Chicago-based CharityWatch gave Planet Aid 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.

    * “Planet Aid’s ‘Recycling’ Program, Debunked!” ― CharityWatch, 2013:

    2) Worse, Danish prosecutors have linked 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.

    Google search:

    “Kindness into Cash” – exposé of used clothes company Planet Aid – pt. 1

    [More info is in the above report’s description box; click ‘Show more’ while on that page.]

    [youtube youtube]

    3) As for USAgain, reports going back a decade suggest that the for-profit company, to quote one TV news investigation, “… routinely pretended to be a charity so business owners wouldn’t ask for rent on the bin space.”

    Danish authorities have also tied USAgain to the Tvind Teachers Group, although, like Planet Aid, none of its officers are wanted by Interpol. Both companies’ laborers and local managers are probably just regular folks trying to hold down a job. But the text of Part 1 of the following report quotes a former USAgain branch manager who says she had been pressured to join the TG, reportedly an elite group within the broader Tvind organization.

    Google search:

    Millions In Clothing Donations Diverted From Charity – kirotv

    Local Mayor Wants Red Bins Out – USAgain in Seattle – YouTube

    [More info is in the 2nd report’s description box; click ‘Show more’ while on that page.]

    Thanks for the chance to express my opinion. Research before you donate.