Most donation bins already off Vancouver streets

Removal started after death of woman last summer; bins on private property will be reviewed in early 2019

Ninety per cent of clothing donation bins have been removed from street right-of-ways in Vancouver, according to the city.

The City of Vancouver provided the update on Jan. 3, a few days after a 34-year-old man became trapped and died in a donation bin in West Vancouver on Dec. 30. West Vancouver temporarily sealed all donation bins in that municipality as a result of the incident.

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The removal of donation bins on Vancouver street right-of-ways began last fall after the death of a 39-year-old woman during the summer. She became trapped and died in a donation bin outside West Point Grey Community Centre July 23.

The City of Vancouver launched a review of donation bins immediately after her death.

In September 2018, following the review, the city’s engineering department asked all operators to remove bins from street right-of-ways by Nov. 30, 2018 due to ongoing safety concerns.

Street right-of-ways include sidewalks, alleyways and boulevards.

The City of Vancouver’s Jan. 3 update indicated about 90 per cent of the more than 100 donation bins that had been previously located on street right-of-ways have been removed and any remaining ones would be removed in early 2019.

Bin operators have also removed bins at West Point Grey Community Centre, Kensington Community Centre, Vancouver Aquatic Centre, and from inside all park board facilities at the request of the park board.

The Vancouver School Board has also ordered removal of bins located on school board property.

There are donation bins located on city lands that have been allowed on a case-by-case basis by the building or property owner/operator such as at fire halls. These locations will be reviewed in early 2019. Donation bins on private property will be reviewed in early 2019 as well.

Donation bins also continue to be located in supervised areas of the City’s Zero Waste Centre and Landfill Residential Drop-off Area.

“The city recognizes the value used clothing donations provide to those in need and to local charities,” the city’s update stated.

Jeremy Hunka, a spokesperson for Union Gospel Mission, told the Courier on Jan. 3 that he wasn’t aware clothing donation bins were being removed from street right-of-ways in Vancouver, but he called the decision a “positive” step.

Hunka maintains they should all be voluntarily taken out of service until they can be retrofitted so they don’t present a safety hazard. He says it’s not just a city or Metro Vancouver issue, but a national one where urgent action is needed because it’s a case of when, not if, someone else dies. (On Jan. 8, five days after Hunka made that comment, a woman died in Toronto after being stuck inside a donation bin, which prompted calls for a review of donation bins in that city.)

Hunka said it’s “mindboggling” that it’s taken this long for the problem to be addressed, while adding he’s not pushing for donation bins to be banned permanently — just taken out of service until “we know they’re not going to kill anyone.”

Ray Taheri, a professor in the school of engineering at UBC’s Okanagan campus, and his students are currently working on ways to retrofit the bins.

Hunka said he would like to know how many currently exist on private property in Vancouver and what the upcoming review entails.

Inclusion BC also announced on Jan. 3 that the organization and its member agencies would remove 146 donation bins in Greater Vancouver, the Fraser Valley, the Sunshine Coast, the Interior of B.C. and Central and North Vancouver Island. The process has already started and all the bins are expected to be gone by early next week. They will be put in storage until safety modifications can be made.

Inclusion BC will accept clothing donations at indoor and monitored collection sites until safety issues are resolved.

“Inclusion BC was deeply saddened to learn of the death of a man in one of our clothing donation bins in West Vancouver. Our deepest condolences go out to all who have been touched by this tragic event,” the release stated.

“Safety is a top property for Inclusion BC and our member agencies that participate in the ClothesDrop recycling program.”

Note: This story has been updated since first posted

WAYS TO DONATE USED CLOTHING

Drop-off alternatives: 

— City of Vancouver Zero Waste Centre, 8588 Yukon St.

Hours of operation

Monday to Saturday: 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Sunday: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

All other statutory holidays unless otherwise stated: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

— City of Vancouver's landfill and recycling depot, 5400 72nd Ave. in Delta

Hours of operation

Monday to Friday: 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Saturday and Sunday: 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

All other statutory holidays unless otherwise noted: 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

* closed on Christmas and New Year's Day

Both locations listed above are supervised and accessible to the public only during open hours.

— Zero Waste Drop-off events hosted by the City and held throughout the year to collect used clothing and other materials.

— Donations can also be made by dropping of clothing at thrift and consignment stores, homeless shelters as well as by calling charities that provide home pick-ups.

For a complete list of options of where you can drop off used clothing, search for “clothing” in the VanCollect mobile app or on the City’s Waste Wizard website.

To find an organization that provides free clothing, click on this list and map of clothing providers.

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