A Champlain Heights resident says the proliferation of charity bins in his neighbourhood and across the city is out of control.
Rick Evans told the Courier the bin set up directly across the street from his home last month on the city boulevard is the eleventh within a very small area in his neighbourhood. Evans said the bin, dedicated for clothing donations only, immediately became a magnet for discarded furniture, garbage bags full of junk and old computer components.
"I don't want to hurt charities that are using these donations to help people locally, but there's too many of them," said Evans. "If the city's going to permit them they should be in the parking lots of the city's 24 community centres and not across the street from my house. That way if there's a big mess, the city can clean it up."
Evans said it would be easier put up with the bins if the majority of goods collected went to local charities. Instead most donations are sold by American, for-profit corporations who pay the charities a fee to use their name. The Courier discovered that while many residents believe those gently used jeans their child has outgrown will be donated directly to a recognized charity via a bin-that's not the case.
Instead, charities such as the Developmental Disabilities Association, Big Brothers and the Canadian Diabetes Association allow their name to be used in exchange for a fee-money that's used to fund those charities' programs. In Vancouver, that means much of the clothing donated is sold for profit at a Value Village location. The Value Village thrift-store chain is owned by the Bellevue, Wash.-based, for-profit corporation Savers Inc. No one from Savers returned a phone call from the Courier. Exceptions to the Value Village arrangement include the Salvation Army and B.C. Children's Hospital Auxilliary, which jointly give away much of the donated clothing to needy residents. They sell the rest locally and share the profits.
Peter Judd, general manager of engineering for the city, said in an email there are approximately 250 bins scattered across the city. He added the city has no permit process in place but is working on guidelines for bin placement.
Judd confirmed some bins have been placed on public land without permission, but added because they belong to non-profit organizations that benefit the community, the city has tried to work with the charities. Because the bins belong to charities the city has no plans to move them at the moment. The city is developing formal permit guidelines to deal with issues such as how close the bins can be placed to businesses or homes and who is responsible for cleaning up discarded junk.
Judd said the majority of complaints the city has received regarding the bins are related to the garbage dumped beside them.
Local Big Brothers media spokesperson Ashley Milby told the Courier the charity uses its own drivers and trucks to pick up items from the donation bins, which are then transported to a Value Village warehouse for sorting. Clothing and household items donated to Big Brothers are sold to Value Village by the pound.
Milby noted the bins make up a small part of the donations collected by Big Brothers. "Most of what we get comes from donors who call for a pickup from their home," said Milby.
Read Friday's Courier to find out what happens to books donated to those "Books for Charity" bins seen around town.