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Unregistered Donation Bins 'Running Rampant' Around Middletown

Committeeman Anthony Fiore said he wants better enforcement of township ordinance

Clothing donation bin file photo
Clothing donation bin file photo

Clothing donation bins around Middletown are becoming unsightly, and the local guidelines meant to keep them orderly must be better enforced, a Township Committee member said this week.

Of all the bins around town, only two are properly registered with the township clerk’s office as required by ordinance. Many are overflowing and have become dumping sites for unwanted items including baby seats and carpeting, according to Committeeman Anthony Fiore.

“They’re just running rampant right now,” he said at a regular committee meeting Monday night.

The township took steps to control donation bins in 2010, passing an ordinance requiring registration and setting forth operational guidelines. But, those rules are largely ignored and enforcement has been difficult since code officials have been tied up with Superstorm Sandy recovery.

“Clearly they’re not being followed,” Fiore said. “We’ve got to do something in terms of enforcing this ordinance.”

Applicants—save for charitable organizations registered in town—must pay a yearly $25 registration fee. Bins must be placed in safe locations, away from gas pumps and not interfering with vehicle traffic in parking lots, according to the ordinance.

Clerk Heidi Brunt has spent an “inordinate” amount of time trying to get bin owners to comply with the ordinance, officials said.

“When you have a lot of them, people start to think of them as a dumping ground,” said Township Administrator Anthony Mercantante, who noted that one such bin is located at Middletown’s train station.  

Should there be complaints about bins, a Zoning Officer is required to investigate within 30 days. If violations are not corrected within 45 days, the township can remove the bin at the owner’s expense and a fine of up to $20,000 can be issued, according to the ordinance.

Fiore said that unsightly bins—including some that may be placed by “questionable” organizations—should be addressed soon.

“We really need to get a handle on this as the new year comes up,” Fiore said. “It’s a quality of life issue.”

Linda Vanetti December 03, 2013 at 07:58 PM
I noticed that there seem to be more of these bins than ever before all over the place. I occasionally put clothes in them but would like to know that I am donating to a legitimate charity. I hope this issue will be addressed soon.
Dave Ensign December 03, 2013 at 09:43 PM
Heres a simple solution if its not registered take it to Kanes Lane and move on why leave out so that it can become a dumping ground
rch December 04, 2013 at 10:13 AM
Agree that they should be regulated as a "quality of life issue" but other quality of life issues even more important are not addressed. Snow removal being one of them. There are storms where we have never seen a plow or are plowed way after the rest of the town is done. Even where some neighborhoods plowed more than once and our street never touched. Leaving messages at Public works didn't seem to help.
Brian Stern December 04, 2013 at 10:57 AM
If it's unregistered and against Township ordinance, take it directly to Kanes Lane, hold it for 30 days, collect a fine or if not claimed after 30 days sell it for scrap. If all of our ordinances were enforced and responsible parties fined, Middletown would benefit not just financially, but the quality-of-life would be improved.
Lauren December 04, 2013 at 02:48 PM
I know of the red cross bin on 35 by the clown, i only drop there assuming it actually it IS a red cross bin and is registered
Wade Larsen December 04, 2013 at 05:18 PM
Thanks for this report. I have a few comments. As this site deletes paragraph breaks, I indicate such by a line of dots (..................................................................................................) 1) Middletown is far from being alone in its donation bin dilemma. Reports across the country say some of the boxes cause blight and public right-of-way issues. Another concern is over out-of-town nonprofit and for-profit clothes collectors causing donations to dwindle at local charities. And some officials complain that non-local companies are getting a free ride ― paying no local taxes or fees ― even while little or none of the proceeds from their collections benefit the local populace. (...............................................................................................) Some cities, like Grand Rapids, Mich., have banned the bins, citing blight concerns. Other towns, such as San Pablo, Calif., have passed robust ordinances to regulate such containers (see references, below)(..................................................................................................) 2) Many folks have a preconceived notion that all donation bins represent a charity. Sadly, this is far from being the case. These days, one simply should research before donating. (.............................................................................................) Certainly, there are obviously shady for-profits trying to muscle in on a lucrative used clothing market once the dominion of familiar nonprofits like the Salvation Army and St. Vincent de Paul. (..................................................................................................) 3) But sadly, even nonprofits are not created equal. Of particular concern to me is a national used clothes collector called Planet Aid, which has placed its yellow drop-boxes in Middletown, throughout the northeast and beyond. Planet Aid has faced a storm of media criticism for some disturbing reasons. For starters, the Chicago-based CharityWatch gave Planet Aid an “F” grade after analyzing its 2011 tax form and audited financial statements, determining that the nonprofit spent only 29% of its expenses on programs. (...................................................................................................) But Planet Aid claims that 84% of the funds it generated in 2011 were spent on its programs. Why does the used clothes collector rate itself so highly when watchdogs don’t? (............................................................................................) According to CharityWatch: “Planet Aid considers the costs associated with collecting and processing donated clothing and other goods to be a ‘recycling’ program expense in support of its ‘significant contribution in the fight against climate change.’ It argues that if it did not collect these items, they would end up in a landfill.” (...........................................................................................) CharityWatch counters that “it would be like Walmart claiming that its main purpose is to help low-income people have a higher standard of living by selling them less expensive merchandise. (...........................................................................................) ...“There are many nonprofit organizations that compete with one another for clothing donations. If Planet Aid did not collect the used clothing … most of it would surely be collected by [other groups]. So it is not the case that all of these items would likely end up in a landfill if Planet Aid did not collect them.” (...........................................................................................) Continued in my 2nd comment)

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