A growing number of sidewalk donation bins in New York City claiming to collect clothing for the poor are actually benefiting for-profit companies.
The New York Times reported on the scheme earlier this month, and found that the graffiti-covered bins that are illegally placed on sidewalks not only function as inconvenient eyesores throughout the city's neighborhoods, but also help greedy businesses sell used clothing in bulk to thrift stores and retailers overseas.
"They have become the bane of our existence," Kathryn Garcia, New York City's sanitation commissioner, told The New York Times. "We have seen a significant uptick in the number of clothing bins placed illegally on public sidewalks. A dramatic increase."
What does a "dramatic increase" look like? In 2010, the city placed warning tags for removal on 91 illegal bins and ended up confiscating 10. In the fiscal year 2014 (which ended last month), more than 2,006 bins were given a warning tag and 132 were confiscated.
New York City is not the exception. National trends have reflected similar patterns of scamming from coast-to-coast throughout recent years.
In 2012, Goodwill officials complained that nationwide donation bins operated by for-profit recycling businesses or nonprofits only giving a fraction of donated items to those who need it most were taking away from donations that would actually benefit the poor, USA Today reported.
The increase in misleading donation bins has led to city government crackdowns across the U.S., from California to Illinois to Florida.
"Take that extra step and find a charity or nonprofit that can really use it," CharityWatch founder Daniel Borochoff had said to USA Today. "Then you can feel good that what's given is being used."
To find a Goodwill near you, visit the organization's website.