The New York Times reported recently that there’s a significant increase in clothing donation bins being placed on city streetsacross the United States — but the vast majority of those bins are actually illegal and not tied to charity.
One New Yorker, Kyiesha Kelly, reported seeing employees of Narciso Recycling Company dump one of these bins onto a nearby sidewalk in front of a community late at night.
When Kelly confronted the workers and told them to move the bin, they pretended to not understand her and left abruptly.
It turns out that this was just one of thousands of these bins placed illegally and bearing a message that said, “Through Your Donations We Provide Money to Charities & Give Employees Occupation.”
But many of these companies, like Narciso Recycling, aren’t looking to donate clothing to the needy. Instead, they send garments overseas and collect a fee for every pound of clothing donated.
In addition to cluttering sidewalks, the boxes also attract graffiti, which residents say is a huge problem. But the implications of these shady practices have a far greater negative impact on communities than vandalism.
Many charities are reporting that these faux donation boxes are taking donations away from the real non-profits.
For starters, the boxes are illegal on city streets in New York City and many other metropolitan areas; New York City allows them to be placed on private property with the owner’s permission.
Then there’s the sheer number of them: in 2010, New York only tagged 91 of them (to be moved by the owners) and confiscated 10. This year, over 2,000 of the boxes have been discovered.
Tagging doesn’t do much good, either. Although the companies receive the order to remove the bins, they usually just move them over a block or two, say city residents.
New York City residents are encouraged to call the 311 helpline if they see any of these boxes in their areas.
And they’re not the only ones in the nation finding these boxes on city streets: officials in Michigan, Arizona and North Carolina have seen them across the state. The city of Tampa Bay also found some.
Clothing exported in bulk could earn approximately 0.35 cents per pound in 2012, but that number has likely since gone up.
But one charity in Arizona reported that their donations went from being valued at around $1 million in 2006 to only $150,000 in 2010. The culprit, they say, is the growing number of fake donation boxes in their area.
The good news, however, is that some charities have decided to take action. Because of the proliferation of the boxes, Goodwill has begun adding them back to New York City and other areas in the hopes of attracting donations that would otherwise go to the for-profit companies.