illegal donation bins popping up everywhere — Brooklynian

illegal donation bins popping up everywhere

imageHave you noticed the faux charity donation bins popping up on the North Crown Hts sidewalks on your walk to the subways? Well they are really for profit companies. Sanitation explains on their website that, “under Local Law No. 31 of 2007, the placement of publicly accessible collection bins on New York City property or property maintained by New York City, or on any public sidewalk or roadway is illegal,” and concerned residents are invited to submit a form requesting their removal.


  • Is this the USAgain people again?
    Alert readers quig and staceyjoy report that the bright red clothes dumpster and graffiti magnet, which we complained about yesterday, has been shown the curb. Many people donating to USAgain think...
  • Hah, I have noticed a couple of these. One under the shuttle tracks on Prospect and one on Sterling and Franklin, SE corner. The pictures on them are perfectly ambiguous. In the meantime, can people use these bins for storing the results of their dogwalking?
  • edited March 2014
    My conscience tells me that would be appropriate "just" treatment of the for profit entities that imply that they do charitable work YET DO NOT.

    However, because the bins are rarely emptied, I suspect that they would reek and the neighbors would be further punished by the existence of the bins.

    So, I vote no.
  • I don]t see any company markings yet, except the usual happy slogans on them trying too hard to look like what they are not. Like these seen in South slope;
    Have you spotted the new donation bin that suddenly appeared on 14th Street and 4th [...]
    4 new ones just popped up near Nostrand.
  • edited March 2014
    There are several near Franklin Ave as well.
  • We have one of those now on the corner of Grand Ave and Prospect Place. Ick. I guess I'll ask for it to be removed. I don't own the property next to the Bin, but that doesn't matter?
  • If it is on the sidewalk or other public property you can send in form to have it removed! here is the link to form. the city has its own program that is truly for non profits and does not want these phonys around. But you have to send in the form. thanks!
  • I'm mailing it off today. I hope everyone does this to remove these fake "donation" boxes. I always try to donate my clothes and shoes to the Camba Women's shelter in Park Slope. They eagerly accept clothes and it goes directly to the residents.
  • Is there no online submission form? Is .gov that archaic? Anyways, saw one in North PS, so whomever this company is they have long tentacles.
  • One box just moved from Franklin and Sterling to Rogers and Sterling over night! Both places were curiously in front of empty lots , as if no one will notice?
  • edited March 2014
    The owner of an empty lot is less likely to complain about a bin in front of their property.

    This is the kind of stuff that Community Board 8 might be willing to pursue, so readers may want to email them in addition to sending the above form to the city.

    We also have a new City Council rep. 

    She is in the process of creating an office in 1000 Dean St, and might be interested in showing that she is responsive to such concerns.

    Laurie A. Cumbo, New York City Council, 35th District 

  • NY1 did a story about clothing drop bins this week. The story mentioned that even when the Department of Sanitation removes illegally placed bins on public property, there isn't enough to deter the organizations who operate the bins to put them up somewhere else. Maybe someone should have legislation proposed to change that.
    One local lawmaker says that New Yorkers trying to donate old items of clothing in some of the large drop-off boxes around the city should think twice, as they could be helping someone pocket some cash.
  • The bin on the southeast corner of Prospect and Franklin has been given the orange sticker of doom! The process of having the bins removed is quite slow but mailing in those forms really does get a result eventually. I like that even though the form gets sent via snail mail, they do send an email confirmation and give the timeframe for having the bin removed. I forgot to check the bin under the shuttle tracks on Prospect. I sent a form for that one also.. hopefully it will follow suit shortly, if it hasn't already.
  • edited April 2014
    During this mornings walk, I saw 4 donation bins, each of them marked by the Department of Sanitation with the orange sticker of doom, or a grease pen.

    Good job.
  • image

    After I submitted the paperwork to sanitation they put on the orange stickers. It took about a month for the bin to be removed. One week later.... It's back in the exact same location at grand and prospect. They painted the side with blue paint I assume to hide where the sanitation stickers were. Part of the reason I requested removal is that people leave garbage next to the bin. Argh! This means war!
  • edited March 2014
    Is there a point where it is ethical to fill the bins with trash?

    Perhaps non smelly items?

    Could large stickers be placed on them that say "this bin does not support any recognized charity, and should be removed. Call 311"
  • When I walk my dog past it I consider putting my "trash" in it. But I'm too nice to do something that gross.
  • edited March 2014
    Me too.

    I am thinking large, inoffensive and worthless items that fill the bins quickly.

    Maybe people could confuse them with paper recycling bins, and the stickers could encourage same?
  • edited March 2014
    @burningorange great photos! Of not so great bins. I second the motion that a guerilla sticker campaign could be launched to obscure the purpose of these bins. VistaPrint anyone?
  • edited March 2014
    I'm too cheap to buy and use blue spray paint.

    But what I am willing to do is order a bunch of these signs and decals for free:

    Picture 1

    I would cross out where it says "building", and write "neighborhood".

    After it says "please bring your recyclables to", I would write "here" 

    Mamacita, I believe in Spanish I would write "barrio" and "aqui".

  • edited June 2014
    Based on the article mugofmead linked, I've just done some research and learned that Sanitation can only give the Orange Tag to bins on public property, and that the process works as follows.

    1.   A Sanitation worker with a car puts an orange tag on them, or writes on them with a grease pen.

    2.   A few days/weeks later, a different Sanitation worker (one with a truck) comes by and looks for orange tagged bins, and removes them.

    However, between 1 and 2, the company often moves the bin to private property and/or removes the tag.    The owner of the private property is not asked whether he wants this bin, but they are often too large for them to move onto public property.   

    Hence, the solution may be to:

    A.  Verify that a private property owner is not consenting to the bin, and then

    B.   Move the bin onto public property.   One may want it to be slightly in the flow of pedestrian traffic, so that a variety of people will fill regularly fill out the form.     

    This procedure may cause the sticker employee and the truck employee to be able to do their work before the people that own the bin move it back.    

    I'm thinking two guys could easily move a bin a dozen feet if they were smart enough to use a soapy solution on the sidewalk as lubricant.


    Yes, very true. This is purely for shits and giggles -as are most online conversations.
  • edited March 2014
    Moving bins that were placed on private property (without the consent of the owner) to public property, does not seem like vandalism.

    Depositing recycling in them does not seem like vandalism.

    Reporting them to the city seems appropriate.

    Calling the owners of the bins (973-732-5460) and telling them that a large number of their bins will soon be moved onto public property and/or tagged because they are already on public property, seems like something they might even be appreciated. seems as if people could do as little, or as much as about this issue as they are comfortable doing.

  • I am very excited by your ideas Whynot_31! Turn them into recycling bins, what an inspiration. It doesn't seem out of line since they are already posing as something they are not. I was contemplating pouring a gallon can pf paint on one out of frustration.
  • Since the sidewalk is public property they should not be there, but the difficulty is getting the city agency to respond quickly. however if it were put in the street then it is much easier to have removed. what if only we could just move them onto the street and call sanitation to pick up in dumptruck. No sticker needed.
  • edited March 2014
    Yes, moving them as far as a parking spot on the street crossed my mind.

    It would take 10 minutes to do, and prompt irritated drivers to informed 311 that it was taking up a parking spot.      

    Yes, taking up a parking spot on a public street would likely generate a much quicker and affirmative response than inconveniencing pedestrians. The problem with such a plan might be finding a parking spot nearby.

    So, I suppose a small team could wander the neighborhood, moving them onto the street when possible, and -when not possible- merely moving them onto public property.

    I think it is safe to assume that the bins in front of vacant lots do not have the consent of the property owner.   If a bin is in front of a bodega, I'd get permission from the bodega operator of the bodega before proceeding.
  • Could only find a thumbnail, but here's one that was "shown the curb" a few years ago in Prospect Heights. Never did find out exactly how the bin ended up on the street like this
  • I'm willing to give this a shot :)
  • edited March 2014
    This article indicates that in June 2013, the city removed bins in The Bronx neighborhood of Riverdale owned by Viltex, the same company that owns the blue bins that have appeared throughout western Crown Heights:

    There have been pretty many related struggles around NYC:

    Viltex is headquartered in Newark, NJ

    This Canadian video explains the business model:

  • "Unlike Goodwill and the other traditional charities involved in collection, none of the clothing gathered by USAgain, Planet Aid and other for-profit operators goes to help needy people in the localities where the boxes are placed."

  • Great research. Now, how do we get the city and new Mayor motivated to do something in Brooklyn about this rat.  When the weather gets warmer we could use a caulking gun to seal the doors shut.
  • edited March 2014
    Ah, but if someone trekked their bag of clothing to the bin only to find it inoperable, they would likely just leave the bag next to the bin.

    This would be unsightly.

    Presumably, people are annoyed by these bins in part because they are unsightly, and in part because they are misleading.

  • One might want to encourage people to bring their unwanted garments to a Greenmarket on a day when they are doing textile collection. (At Grand Army Plaza, for example, that's on a Saturday.) 

    A tenant might also want to convince a building owner to host a re-fashioNYC bin instead.
  • Signs advertising the location of more "reputable" places that collect used items could be affixed to the Viltex bins, but I think their existence would overcome such signs

    ....the "disreputable" bins are more convenient than the "reputable" drop off locations.

    The for profits are beating the non profits at their game.

  • I wonder if appropriating one of these bins would be viewed as theft.  I could see repurposing them as a secure storage container, especially with the help of a welder and a torch, both of which I have.
  • Who would care enough to report a "repurposing" as theft? ;)

  • edited April 2014
    I took a look at the one at St. Johns and Washington last night, while walking my dog.

    It has been tagged with the orange sticker, so Viltex needs to move it somewhere before the Dept of Sanitation truck arrives.

    The bins are designed to be moved with a folk lift type thing, so one might be able to easily move them with a pallet jack.

    ...might be easier than lubing up the sidewalk with soap and water.

    ....Might be rentable at a local tool rental place.


    There are a bunch of tool rental places nearby.
  • the non profits don't have the resourses to see it as a game.  These fork lifts are VERY heavy and need a truck. But what a great idea.
  • Yes, a long time ago I worked at a warehouse and used pallet jacks to move appliances around. The jacks weigh about 75 lbs, but any idiot can use them safely.

    Locally, supermarkets use them and might be willing to lend them. I suspect that NSA (on Washington), and Compare each have one.

  • edited March 2014
    The one at St Johns and Washington remains there, with the orange tag.

    Sanitation tagged it on Feb 28

    C'mon flatbed sanitation truck....
  • The one under the shuttle tracks at Prospect Place finally got marked today!  There are so many others though.. they seem to be reproducing. 
  • There is at least one by the car wash/gas station on Lincoln near Bedford.  
  • edited March 2014
    "There are so many others though.. they seem to be reproducing."

    They are like Tribbles!

  • Today, my dog and I had the opportunity to have a good, long walk around western CH. I counted at least 10 bins, each of which had an orange sticker, or grease pen markings from a DOS employee.

    So, lets give this a few more weeks and see what happens next.

    I congratulate readers on their thorough reporting to the city.
  • The one by the mural on St Johns and Washington was gone this am when I walked past. Yay.
  • So is the one at St Johns & Classon. Double Yay!! :-)
  • Good bye to you...

  • edited April 2014
    The Sanitation Department has hauled away almost 60 bins in just nine months.

    If DNA wrote their story based on this thread, a cite would have been nice.
  • edited March 2014
    At my request, article now cites Brooklynian as source.
  • yeah right! We have started something here.
  • I noticed one with an orange sticker on Prospect Place off of Franklin while I was riding the B48 home tonight. It was laying on its back.

    A fence has gone up around the rear part of the laundromat property on Empire Boulevard and McKeever Place. I hope the bin that is there (and the one that is on the property of the future TD Bank down the street) are the next to go.
  • edited April 2014
    I suspect that one person, using an inexpensive and light weight bottle jack, could quickly and easily flip a bin on its back.

  • A rope tied to the saddle of my horse will do the same. Super glue in the locks ? They would have to haul it away to remove lock.
  • edited April 2014
    When full, does Viltex haul away the bins to its Newark location for emptying, or does it empty the contents into a truck here? 

    Depending upon you and your horse seems problematic. However, you may be the best we have:   I do not think the Prospect Park horses are permitted to be used in this manner.
  • time to scrap metal them.
  • Does anyone know if the few bins surrounded by a small fence are legal? I think not. the DOT has to give permits for any construction on the sidewalk such as a fence.
    Most home owners are under the mistaken belief that the area right outside thier house is thier property because the city will fine them for not keeping i clean but in fact it is city land. I am thinking of calling 311 and making a illegal construction complaint about those fences so then the bins can be removed by the sanitation.
  • At the moment, the main barrier to removing most of the bins is the shear number of them.

    Instead of going after the high hanging fruit (bins that are protected by fences), it might be time to get the person who drives the Deptartment of Sanitation flat bed truck some help.

    Maybe his co-worker could be temporarily re-assigned from his duties of picking up broken appliances?
  • Omg!!! Just saw that yet another illegal donation bin has just been placed right back in the exact same spot on the corner of St Johns & Classon, where a bin was just removed by sanitation a week ago. This is ridiculous!! What can we do about this, permanently?? Ugh!!! 
  • super glue inserted into the key hole might discourage them
  • I'm even more disgusted now than I was 15 minutes ago...Just called 311 to file a complaint to Sanitation about this bin having "re-appeared" & wanting it removed....Shockingly 311 says they cannot pass the complaint along directly to Sanitation. They need to mail me a form, I need to fill it out & mail it back, then Sanitation decides from there...Blah..blah...And we all turn old and gray looking at these damn things...Ugh!!! Seriously??? Does anyone know a quicker way to get this eyesore removed permanently?
  • The city does what it can, but (as explained in this thread) its resources are limited, and it has procedural and resource constraints   It may need residents to do what it legally can not do:

    --->  Move these bins onto the street, where the city can have an easier time removing them.  
  • Ugh, the one on St Johns and Washington is also back! How is this possible! It is already stickered for removal though.
  • Yeah, the jerks removed the one on Park Place, between Classon and Franklin. It was ticketed for removal. Then they put a new, non-ticketed one its place. Argh.
  • edited April 2014
    Imagine that you drive Viltex's flatbed truck.

    ....In addition to collecting the contents of the bins, your job is to find locations for the new bins on your truck, and rescue any that are tagged (either by orange sticker or grease pen) by the city for removal.

    The firm then paints over the grease pen and/or removes the sticker, ensuring their ongoing productivity.
  • If they are left on the sidewalk are they technically abandoned? I mean is it OK for us to move them or put our own stickers on them that allert donors of the false promise of charity?
  • I do not give legal advice.

    I do not object to helping the city overcome its procedural and resource constraints.

  • Now I'm noticing these things everywhere. However, the ones I tend to see coincidentally (or not) seem to be located just beyond the reaches of public domain on private property. Coming back from the post office on Empire this afternoon, I noticed the laundromat at the corner of Empire and Rogers has one. It even has the logo of the laundromat on it. (Why do I suspect that the motivations to have the collection box there are not strictly charitable?)

    Wouldn't it be great if legislation were to be proposed to address the issue?
  • Some property owners agree to have them on their private property, and receive payment for same.

    I would not want a law that outlaws such contracts/use.
  • My favored bin (under the shuttle tracks on Prospect) disappeared for a day but now a sibling has taken its place.  It is not the exact same bin but a very similar one, and has been placed several feet to the east of where the old one was.  There is clearly new paint on the side where it was likely marked for removal previously at a different location..

    This company has no qualms about thumbing their nose at the current city laws in place...

    Also, I saw one of the blue bins in Williamsburg when I happened to be there yesterday.  Maybe looking for some vintage pieces ;)
  • I can only imagine how many trucker caps are collected by the ones in Williamsburg.
  • I wonder if appropriating one of these bins would be viewed as theft.  I could see repurposing them as a secure storage container, especially with the help of a welder and a torch, both of which I have.
    Eastbloc, if something is left on the sidewalk along the street, then isn't it actually considered trash? So, if that is the case, altering, moving, destroying "trash" wouldn't be considered grafitti, theft, or vandalism, right?
  • Last night I saw one of these bins at Grand and Prospect that had it's door open.  As I walked by, I tried to close the flap however I couldn't because the bin was totally full of donated items.  I'm not sure why, but I had figured that these bins were very rarely being used and that the company was just managing to aggregate enough items to scrape a profit.  This may not be true..
  • As evidenced by all of the boxes labeled "free stuff" one sees on local sidewalks, people hate to throw away things that once had value.

    The clothing bins harness these feelings, and make it convenient for the donor.
  • Rather than "harness" I would say they redirect the intention for the feeling of giving to the needy into profit for the few.
  • edited May 2014
    Oh my lord. The bin is back for the 3rd time at prospect and grand but this time it's made of particle board! It just has an open hole to throw your items in...

  • This is beyond ridiculous! Anyone have a property facing one of these bins? Because if we could set up a camera facing the bin perhaps we could catch the truck delivering them? Maybe that would peek the authorities interest?
  • edited May 2014
    No need for a camera.

    Beyond having Sanitation take the bins that are on public property, the city doesn't seem to have any means to go after the companies.   They don't seem to be able to fine the truck for "littering".

    Despite the title of this thread, the bins themselves are not illegal.   ....merely their placement on public property is.

    ..Via the above complaint procedure, the city has to demonstrate that the bin annoys someone before it can take action.

  • They paint over the collection signs and numbers painted on the sign. Perhaps take a pic of 'em to prove they have not moved? the painting, plus new stickers, seems to be their trick.
  • edited May 2014
    The city does what it can, but (as explained in this thread) its resources are limited, and it has procedural and resource constraints   It may need residents to do what it legally can not do:

    --->  Move these bins onto the street, where the city can have an easier time removing them.  

  • Maybe a simple way to render them unusable, like superglue? I'd be willing to volunteer a weekend going around to shut them down
  • They paint over the collection signs and numbers painted on the sign. Perhaps take a pic of 'em to prove they have not moved? the painting, plus new stickers, seems to be their trick.
    The bins usually disappear for a few hours/days and then another (similar) bin appears, often with evidence of painting over the sticker/grease paint.  So technically, they do move. 

    So frustrating though... they are being used heavily too.  The bin of choice that I watch under the shuttle tracks on Prospect was overflowing the other day and had items and bags scattered all around it. 
  • Yes, the bins are clearly well used. As I look east and west of us, I see fewer bins.

    I speculate that is because they fill up less quickly in those areas, and therefore less profitable.

    Until we effectively increase the costs of doing business here, or decrease the return, this will be a game of whack a mole:

  • My caulking gun is getting readied with my personal favorite: Seamer Mate.
  • Believe me...I despise these bins and would like to see them disappear and have called sanitation about them several times. But my fear is that if we seal them closed, folks who have come to leave their "donations" in the bins will of course be unable to open them, and therefore will just dump their bags of stuff on the sidewalk next to the bins, and we'll be stuck with a bigger, unruly mess of piles of clothes and shoes on all of our street corners for days or weeks....Not sure this will serve our purposes and may actually just cause a diffrtent problem. Thoughts? Alternatives?
  • Pallet jack.
  • Maybe attaching a bold large font note explaining what a scam these are with the web address to this discussion will cause people to stop feeding the bin.
  • This one has been tagged by Sanitation since May 19, 2014.
  • The bin on Sterling between Bedford and Franklin is finally gone, fence and all! Joy. An eye sore no more. Most mornings someone was pulling the bags out to look for free stuff.
  • Someone tipped the one on Park between Franklin and Classon. image
  • Love this photo. Needs to be tagged repeatedly by a few dogs .
  • There's one at the corner of Park Place and Nostrand that I saw today. It looked kinda out of place so I didn't really trust it. Then I came across this!
  • edited June 2014
    Yes it is out of place. The fence is an illusion of permanence  THe city does not approve of bolting fences to sidewalk at will without proper permits. Even if the owner believes he/she owns the sidewalk near his house a survey will often show the city owns it and only tolerates fences if requested. This bin should go too. took this picture of a truck unloading from that very bin.  Send in another request to Sanitation here;

  • oh my heavens, these are the WORSt.
    I wanted to donate but hubby found so called 'american red cross' and looked on their site saw nothing about bins. At benson ave by 25th ave. There are some by 99shops on bath ave by 18thave. A few sitting at parking lot of khols/ceasar bay.
    After more research found about Planet Aid that gives $5cents/lbs to Charity and rest pocket in.

    These bins as mentioned above are unsigthtly,  when they are full they make a mess, and when see mess next you see garbage.

    INSTEAD of stickers, the DOS should confiscate, melt the scrap metal.  How long will a scam exists if they have to keep making NEW bins?

    I also like the other ideas of people placing recycling items and compost, that will make the items unsellable. The transports won't want to touch these things.
  • Part of the trouble is that the nearest legit thrift stores are the Housing Works and Goodwill, both of a bit of a schlep. Maybe we could find a business owner to host a legit thrift store donation bin on Franklin or Washington?
  • You are kidding right? Goodwill is on Fulton near Franklin and is not a schlep.   Donations should be effortless? It is on the way to subway, etc. Make a trip to Outpost of other Bed Sty watering hole for coffee or a beer and drop off along the way.


    1104 Fulton St
    Brooklyn, NY 11238

  • edited June 2014
    Here is the fun part:

    The legit charities in the US (such as Goodwill) receive more clothing than they can sell locally. Many of them sell usuable, excess clothing donations to the exporters to be sold overseas, and receive minuscule profits for them. It is expensive to sort, discard and wash all of the clothing received.

    So why are there all these bins everywhere?!

    Goodwill and Salvation Army survive as a result of subsized labor. Many of the employees are in job training programs, and thus the entities are more dependent upon such contracts and $ donations than the sale of clothing.

    On the otherhand, companies like Viltex survive as a result of their massive quantities of scale, and international supply chain linkages.

    As a result, many of the reputable non profits are not interested in having addition bins, and find it hard to get upset over companies like Viltex.

    To the outsider, it appears as if Viltex directly competes with Goodwill, but in actuality the Venn Diagrams overlap only to a degree.
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