Charity donation bins: how to improve them by ensuring they don’t overflow
Scary fact – illegal dumping around clothing donation bins costs charities $20 million per year. In an industry that involves 70,000 Op Shop volunteers working to help those in need in our communities, it is disturbing to think people purposefully dump rubbish outside shops and donation bins.
Part education, part intervention – the solution to this problem is complex and has troubled those in the industry for many years. A multi-dimensional problem, charities duel with private “for profit” clothing collectors for the best real estate for clothing bins. Regardless of whether they are charities or private businesses, collectors need to keep the area clean or risk their bins being removed from the best real estate.
Whether they are charity bins or private, there is a section of the public that leave the product of their spring cleans outside stores and donation bins under the guise of a “donation”. It is a great thing for our community to deposit quality goods no longer wanted in a charity donation bin, it is a low blow to the dedicated volunteers to leave rubbish that cannot be sold. It is a terrible thought that the first $20 million donations to charities each year goes to paying for waste removal and not the worthy causes the charities work to overcome.
A key step forward in reducing this wasted money and mess on our streets is the development of sensors that monitor waste volume. A small sensor the size of your palm is attached to the roof of the bins to continually monitor the fill level of each container. The fill level is sent to a secure website so bins can be managed efficiently, whilst not permitted to overflow.
The sensors allow operators, councils, collectors and charities to pinpoint clothing bins across their assets that are about to overflow, even sending emails and text messages to key people to ensure the bins are emptied. At around 60c cents per day to own and run a Smartbin sensor, Smartbin are saving charities and textile recyclers vast sums internationally.
The National Association of Charitable Recycling Organisations (NACRO) has produced a Code of Practice for the placing and management of clothing donation bins. The CoP aims to provide clarity of signage between charity and “for profit” bins, as well as to minimise the risk of illegal dumping at the site. Smartbin believe they have a role to play in managing clothing bins well, ensuring there is always space in a clothing bin and no excuses for the more unethical in our community to dump goods outside containers.
Whilst sensor-monitored bins are not a silver bullet to the problem of charities having rubbish dumped on them, money will be saved by not servicing empty containers and full bins will be reported immediately to bring forward servicing.
The writer, David Puxty, is the owner of Fernlawn Environmental, which offers solutions in tender development, waste management systems, environmental planning and landscape management. Fernlawn Environmental has a partnership with SmartBin, a waste management technology solutions company from Ireland.