Don’t overlook benefits of donation bins amid safety movement: B.C. non-profit

A Sunshine Coast non-profit is warning that the benefits of clothing donation bins shouldn’t be forgotten amid the movement to ban the devices over safety concerns.

Glen McClughan is the executive director with the Sunshine Coast Association for Community Living, a group that works with people with developmental disabilities.

Like many other organizations across Canada, he pulled his organization’s three donation bins this week after seeing the news about a death in one bin in West Vancouver, and another in Toronto.

“I just thought, well, you know, better safe than sorry. Didn’t want to have that happen on my watch,” he said.

But McClughan is hoping a safe middle ground can be found, and soon — because for organizations like his, the bins are a crucial source of revenue.

For his group, the bins brought in about $15,000 in a year, enough to lease a van and create two jobs for people with disabilities collecting the donations and driving them to Vancouver, where they’re sold to Value Village.

It also generated extra revenue to make life better for his group’s clients.

“To underwrite a trip for somebody or buy a piece of furniture or some appliances,” he said, describing where that revenue would go.

But while the bins provide a clear benefit to many Canadian charities, critics maintain they must remain off the street until groups can be certain they won’t claim any other lives.

Loretta Sundstrom, whose daughter died in a Pitt Meadows donation bin in 2015, has been pushing for the change for years.

“I think that what they should do is get rid of these bins,” she told Global News. “If you need something, re-design them. Make it safe and accessible for everyone.”

On Wednesday, the City of Richmond became the latest in a parade of municipalities and organizations to pull the bins.

“We’re asking the people who own those bins to remove them in the next 24 hours. And if they can’t do that, then to lock the bins until they can be removed,” said city spokesperson Ted Townsend.

On the Sunshine Coast, McClughan’s group is still collecting donations at its head office.

But McClughan said he hopes the conversation around the bins shifts to the root causes of what would prompt someone to climb into one of them in the first place.

“What is driving people to try to get into bins?” he asked.

“That should stimulate a conversation about homelessness, about affordable housing, about drug addiction. Just removing the bins doesn’t make any of that go away.”

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