Clothes bin ban a welcome plan

By John Peters

June 21, 2013

Last night, the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners set a public hearing on a proposal to prohibit clothes donation bins from being placed in the community by for-profit business operations.

Actually, the proposal allows for them under limited circumstances, one of those limits being that an ongoing business entity which owns the box must be located at the site of such a bin.

We believe the city is making the right call in seeking to put limits on the placement of these bins.

As many people already know, agencies such as Goodwill and The Salvation Army have for decades utilized such containers, allowing people in the community to drop off used clothes for use by these two agencies. The idea behind the bins is that folks can use these unmonitored drop-boxes at their convenience, dropping off the clothes donations any time of day or night.

The Salvation Army often uses the clothes dropped off there to meet needs of those in the community facing financial struggles by giving them the donated clothing, while Goodwill often sells the clothes in its stores. The stores price those items inexpensively, making them affordable for those who are struggling, and uses the proceeds to help others while creating a handful of jobs to operate the store.

For-profit agencies that use the bins take the clothes dropped off there and resell them, sometimes as second-hand clothing in the United States, but often the clothes are put in large shipping containers and sent overseas.

According to, the standard clothes bin will hold about 500 pounds of clothing, which represents about $200 of income for these businesses. On average, the website states, a Goodwill store can generate about $500 of revenue from that same bin, money which remains in the community specifically targeted to help the needy.

Don’t misunderstand, there is nothing illegal, or even wrong, with for-profit companies doing this. However, oftentimes the general public does not understand the difference, and people often drop clothes into the containers operated by for-profit businesses, thinking they are making a donation to a local charity.

That’s why we believe the city commissioners are justified in limiting where these containers can be placed, and in so doing the board is helping to protect not only members of the public who mean to make charitable donations, but they are protecting groups such as the local Salvation Army and Goodwill.

That, in turn, helps protect those most in need of services offered by these agencies.