3OYS: Donation bins raise concerns this holiday season

Posted: Updated:
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver

PHOENIX -- 'Tis the season of giving, and many people are taking their unwanted items to donation bins around the Valley.

"I just think it's good to be able to give back to other people who probably need things more than I do," said Leigh Penny, who uses donation bins. "(If) you clean out your closet, you might as well donate it."

But some of those donated items might not actually make it to charities, 3 On Your Side reported in November 2010. Instead, they are weighed and sold to secondhand stores.

Unregulated and overflowing charity bins have raised concerns in Phoenix, leading to a new city ordinance. Starting Jan. 1, bin owners will need a city permit to place bins on private property.

"Property owners didn't like how they were treated by some of the for-profit companies, just putting boxes on their property and not getting proper approval from the property owners' perspectives," city of Phoenix spokesman Alan Stephenson explained.

American Textile Recycling Services, a for-profit textile recycling company, has about 90 donation bins across the Valley. According to Robby Milner, who works for the company, the items find new life in several different ways.

"Everything we collect, we sort," Milner said. "We grade it, we reuse it, and we resell it. There's absolutely nothing that gets discarded."

Milner said that when items are resold, a portion of the proceeds benefits a local charity. In Phoenix, the proceeds aid domestic violence victims through the Weldon House charity.

Milner added "if we don't collect as much then obviously we don't have as much money to donate to the charities that we support."

But the company's goal is to make sure every item is used, whether it is recycled, resold or donated.

Milner agreed that donation boxes need some governance.

"I think that if we can regulate the industry, if we can put some kind of rules and regulations in place, it's just going to benefit everybody in the long run," he said.

When dropping gently used items in donation boxes this holiday season, remember that someone could be profiting from those items.