Rockford says clothing donation bins are a scam, company pushes back

Local News

ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Clothing collection boxes are causing a rift between the city and for-profit organizations.

Staff with the city asked that people donate to local non-profit organizations, but they warned of companies using the bins to make money off donations.

One bin, placed off Auburn Road, was the center of that issue Tuesday. The city wants them gone, claiming that they are deceptive, but the company said that that is not true, and that they just want to combat fast fashion.

“What were looking at here in a bin that appears to have been set up by a for-profit commercial entity,” said Robert Wilhelmi, Borwnfields Redevelopment Specialist for the City of Rockford.

The bins collecting clothing and shoes are set up in area parking lots, but they may not be what people think.

“Right now, second hand clothing has a huge profit margin, not only on the internet, but second hand resale shops, and that’s exactly what we’re looking at,” Wilhelmi said. “Most likely, the clothing coming out of this bin will be going into a resale shop.”

Wilhelmi said that the money made from these clothes go straight into the company’s pocket.

“A slap in the face, because unfortunately, this time of year people are in the giving spirit, and it’s just an effort to take advantage of our citizens,” Wilhelmi said.

However, Arian Toska, Helping Hands’ Chief Operating Officer, said that they are not trying to fool anyone.

“I hate that we’re painted with that brush,” Toska said. “We specifically say that we’re a for profit company, we’re not embarrassed to be a for profit company.”

“Commercial Recycling Business” can be seen on the boxes in grey lettering, and Toska said that shows that they are open about being a for-profit company.

“We’ve actually gone on a campaign on this on our eastern states,” Toska said. “We’ve actually taken in to where we’ve actually put on three inch by two inch lettering on all four sides of the bins that actually state for-profit companies.”

Toska said that they are just trying to keep clothes out of landfills.

“Closing out this year, we’re probably looking at 40 million pounds of clothing thats gone through our recycling bins, that didn’t end up in landfills, that had got into somebody else’s hands that could use it for other things,” Toska said.

However, Wilhelmi would rather see the donations benefit Rockford.

“So when it comes to clothing donations, we like to use local non profits,” Wilhelmi said. “The reason for that is because they will actually take donations, use them and invest back into the community.”

Wilhelmi said that the box also violates two city ordinances, and said that the city could cite the company for prohibited outdoor storage use.

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