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For-profit donation bins draw criticism
Clothes recycling bin placed at Powers and Yosemite avenues in Manteca. - photo by HIME ROMERO

The San Joaquin County Grand Jury is trashing unattended for-profit donation bins.

In a report issued Wednesday, the Grand Jury noted there has been a proliferation of the bins placed in cities throughout the county often without the permission of property owners.

The Grand Jury discovered the bins placed by for-profit organizations such as USAgain and Discover Books have hurt non-profits that serve San Joaquin County residents. 

The agencies with the for-profit bins sell items they collect for a profit in Latin America and Africa.

The Grand Jury recommendations include:

• getting cities and the county to enact ordinances requiring owners of the bins to receive written permission before placing collection bins.

• requiring owners of the bins to maintain them.

• having property owners be held harmless for removing bins placed with permission

• requiring owners of the bins to post signage making it clear the bins are operated by for-profit companies and not for non-profit charities.

The report notes that often times the unattended collection bins create eyesores with dropped off items strewn about the ground around them.

Also, all of the for-profit bins placed in San Joaquin benefit out-of-state corporations that pay no local or state taxes and provide no benefit locally.

The bins they place often include only small signs to indicate donations are not tax deductible and no not state that donations are exported to foreign countries for resale.

USAgain, according to its website, collected 60 million pounds of clothing from 10,000 donation sites in California and 16 other states during 2011. Most of it was resold for a profit in Latin America and Africa.

In testimony collected the Grand Jury found that clothing donations to non-profits such as Goodwill and the Salvation Army have fallen.

The report also notes the two non-profits do not operate unattended drop-off sites plus always have permission from property owners.

The local non-profits generate local jobs while the for-profits do not although USAgain has employees at its Hayward warehouse operations.

The Grand Jury interviewed municipal code enforcement staff including in Lathrop, visited local non-profit donation centers, talked with security staff at Lowe’s on Hammer Lane in Stockton, and questioned property owners who have had the for-profit bins placed on their property.

They visited Goodwill and Shelter Thrift donation centers plus inspected 14 for-profit unattended donation bin sites in Tracy, Manteca, Lodi, Lathrop, Stockton and unincorporated portions of the county.