Have you ever dropped off clothing at one of those parking lot bins? The ones that say they’re going to a specific charity? Or maybe a charity is calling you and saying they’ll pick up any spare clothes or household goods you don’t want. You dutifully sort through your closet and drawers and select the pieces you don’t want anymore but won’t work at a consignment shop, stuff them into a garbage bag and leave them in what you assume is the hands of a charitable organization.
Except, that’s not really where your things end up. In an in-depth article researched by the CBC, in most cases the bins themselves are being emptied by private collection companies. The drivers are paid by the pound to collect the items, then the collection companies turn around and sell the items — at a profit — to bulk buyers, who will then resell the items to for-profit thrift stores or export the items to the third world for sale.
And what of charity? Where do they get their cut? It’s not clear. Charities sometimes take a flat fee, or perhaps a percentage of the sales. But in many cases, the charity will never even see your items — and they might not even see a penny of the profits from them. A recent court case in Ontario forced a for-profit collection company to open its books, and what it showed was mere pennies ending up in charities, while everyone along the rest of the route rakes it in. One anonymous source was quoted as stating a driver could make “$200,000 a year, easy.” The judge in the case was shocked, expressing surprise at the “very small portion of the revenue generated from the business being given to certain charities” while the business “produced extraordinary revenue and income for those involved.”
And that business isn’t exactly reputable. The court case mentioned above involved a man in the bin collection business claiming a gun was pulled on him by a competitor. Bins have even been found to have no affiliation whatsoever with the charity they’re claiming to help.
So what do you do? You thought you were giving your things to a good cause; instead you’re lining the pockets of profitmakers. Here’s a few tips to make sure your donations are really being used the way you want them used:
- Don’t just drop your things in any random bin. Do your research. If a bin says it’s going to charity, contact the local charity to verify.
- Better yet, find a charity that will accept your donations directly. The Salvation Army processes and sells all of the suitable donations they receive through their thrift stores, generating cash directly for their charitable programs.
Photo Credit: QUOI media on Flickr.