Citywide Blight Due to Shady Donation Boxes

Have you ever seen or used one of those donation boxes placed in parking lots used to collect donated clothing, books, and shoes? Sam Levin reports at the East Bay Express that the boxes are often ill-maintained and usually run by for-profit businesses:

“As a practical matter, it’s next to impossible to keep these boxes cleaned up,” said Oakland City Council President Pat Kernighan. “They are creating a problem that doesn’t seem easily solved.”

Opponents of the bins also argue that they divert donations away from East Bay charities that recirculate items locally and use their revenue to fund jobs and important social service programs. The out-of-town businesses that operate the donation boxes are instead typically driven by profits and generally sell donated clothing to wholesale buyers, thrift store chains, and textile recyclers. That means materials can be shipped across the country and overseas, which is less environmentally efficient than local reuse. And to some, the bin operators are clearly using misleading marketing tactics to collect clothes from residents who likely don’t realize they are giving their goods to non-local, for-profit businesses, instead of local charities that need these donations.

A spokesperson for Goodwill Industries of the Greater East Bay says it has seen a 5 to 10 percent decrease in donations since the bins have proliferated: “That makes a significant impact on what we can provide in the community to folks in need.”

So if you are able to donate your unwanted goods directly to the Salvation Army, that’s the way to go.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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Previously on The Billfold

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12 Comments / Post A Comment

birdofparadise (#6,109)

Ughhh I just dropped some old clothes in one of those bins a few days ago! Now I know…

Allison (#4,509)

Ugh, I’ve wanted to use those bins rather than donate to the Salvation Army. I wish there was an easy Goodwill donation spot near me.

joyballz (#2,000)

@Allison Did I remember correctly that you’re in Chicago? Are you near either of the Brown Elephant locations? That’s where I donate everything. Or there are a few hospitals that run thrift stores. I’ve shopped at Village Discount, but never donated. They may be a decent alternative?

Allison (#4,509)

@joyballz I do know we’ve considered Brown Elephant before! I think the clean out days have just always coincided with days they were closed. I need to do a major spring cleaning and see if they want any of my stuff.

And also buy a dresser from them to keep the rest of my stuff in.

laluchita (#2,195)

@Allison I was just coming down here to recommend the Brown Elephant! I knew about the scam boxes, Salvation Army isn’t getting a dime from my gay, jewish ass, and goodwill has REALLY bad employment policies for people with disabilities, but the Brown Elephant are AWESOME! They have a drop off bin at this Walgreens in wicker park: http://goo.gl/maps/sE70K

sea ermine (#122)

Given that the Salvation Army has a history of supporting anti gay politicians (and has turned away people trying to get help based on their sexuality) it might be better to find a Goodwill, or some sort of local clothes donation group than to drop things of at Salvation Army. Just an fyi..

E$ (#1,636)

@sea ermine I was just going to ask, what’s a good alternative for people who don’t want to support the Salvation Army?

@E$ Find a local thrift store, for sure. A lot of cities have ones run by domestic violence shelters/support that provides clothes for “Dress for Success” type programs and the money the thrift store makes helps fund the services the shelter provides. My city has one that’s kind of out of the way, but eventually I get my act together and go over there.

I think I found this store just by googling “[my city] thrift store” or “[my city] domestic violence dress for success.” Yelp is good too.

sea ermine (#122)

@E$ Some cities have their own local recycling things. I go to a thrift store near my house, if you live in nyc this website has good resources for where to donate your stuff. Goodwill is also good if you have one in your area (again, for NYC people apparently there is one in Midtown that will take everything, clothes, appliances, books, furniture, etc).

beet hummus (#946)

@sea ermine
And re: Goodwill, there is this gem of a revelation: Goodwill paying disabled people pennies per hour

So I also vote for donating to local thrift shops instead.

In the suburbs where my parents live, a veterans org sends around flyers once every six months or so that they’ll be in the area, and if you have anything to donate, you can just leave it on your doorstep in a marked bag. Easy!

ECW (#2,765)

Another person on the bandwagon of “Don’t equate Goodwill and Salvation Army.” At least not with clothing donations. Salvation Army does great work but clothing donations tend to go overseas, which is great, but if your goal is to support locally, then Goodwill all the way! Goodwill will also come pick things up for you, if you call in advance!

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