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Toronto city council cracks down on clothing donation bins

Canadian Diabetes Association clothing donation bin. Jill Croteau

While many may look to donate their old clothing as a way to benefit charities, Toronto politicians feel the amount of unlicensed bins are more of a nuisance than the good they may do.

At its second day of meeting, Toronto city council continued debate over the merits of changing rules around licensing for clothing donation bins and how to remove ones that don’t belong. The bins recently became a topic of concern last winter, after a homeless woman died after becoming trapped in one.

While the safety of the bins was raised in the motions, most of the debate was largely spent on enforcing unlicensed bins. The city currently has issued more than 500 permits to charities and businesses, but city staff said the number of illegal bins have become an issue.

READ MORE: Woman dies after being trapped inside clothing donation box in Toronto

Several city councillors, including Frances Nunziata. cited issues with keeping donation bins clean. Nunziata cited those in her ward where people were using them as illegal tipping locations.

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“I have people dumping sofas, furniture, garbage, refrigerators next to these bins,” said Nunziata.

Nunziata said the number of bins in her ward, many of which were illegal, was a problem. Enforcing the unlicensed ones, she said, was also an issue because it takes too much time and ties up city resources.

The current city by-law requires charities and businesses to operate drop boxes. Charities have to identify themselves as one and have a permit on them. The largest number of complaints associated with the boxes, according to staff, is the eyesore factor when they are not kept clean.

City staff told council illegal bins create issues because they are currently required to store them before disposing of them.

READ MORE: ‘This is a problem across the country’: Clothing donation bin deaths prompt demand for action

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Council voted on a number of motions to try to keep track of existing bins and keep others from getting out of hand.

An online database will be developed to ensure the public knows where to find them.

Etobicoke councillor Stephen Holyday’s motion to crack down on rogue bins was also passed. Any donation bins on public property which are unlicensed or unsafe will now be immediately removed and destroyed.

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