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New Law In Effect For Donation Bins Around The State

Posted at 9:53 PM, Jul 01, 2015

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Have you cleaned out your closet and wondered what to do with your old clothing?

You may have seen the recycling bins for clothing and small household items that have been popping up it seems on every corner.

Complaints about them though prompted one state lawmaker to push through a new law regulating them.

That law took effect Wednesday, and already we found changes.

"One morning we woke up and there were bins everywhere," state Rep. Brenda Gilmore, D-Nashville, remarked.

Those brightly colored bins that have been popping up in grocery store parking lots have been for recycling things like old shoes and clothing.

"I see them everywhere I go," Gilmore added.

But when the Democrat from Nashville started getting complaints about them, she decided the state needed to step in.

She said property owners were upset that bins would suddenly show up without permission and trash was left behind.

But Gilmore's biggest concern was that donors often didn't know where their donations were really going. Many bins have a charity's name on the side.

But in most cases, we've discovered, these bins have been operated by for-profit companies that usually give the listed charity a portion of the proceeds, while some, we found, give nothing at all.

"The biggest reason that we felt this legislation was necessary is to provide transparency and to protect the public," explained Gilmore.

Under the new law, all bins must be clearly labelled. If a bin has been operated by a charity, it must clearly feature the charity's name, contact information, and mission statement explaining where the money goes. If the bin has not been run by a charity, it must also state "donations made here will be sold by a for-profit business and a portion of the proceeds" will go to the charity listed. It must also direct consumers to the charity for more information on where the money goes.

And if the bin has strictly been a money-making venture for a company and nothing has been going to charity, it must state here in big letters, "This is not a charity. Donations made here will be sold by a for-profit business and are not tax deductible."

"We think we are forcing or calling the bin operators' hands to make them be honest to the public," Gilmore told NewsChannel 5 Investigates.

"It's about consumer protection,” said Brent Culberson, director of the state's Charitable Solicitations and aming Division.

His division would be enforcing the new law.

And they're busy trying to get the word out. We caught up with them when they shot a public service announcement that aims to educate both the public and bin operators.

"We'll also have a campaign on Twitter so if individuals are out in their community and they see a bin and want to check on it, they can retweet a photo and we'll have a hashtag bincheck," Culberson revealed.

ThriftSmart was one of the first to get on board with the new labeling requirements. It runs its own collection bins and sells most of what's donated in its thrift stores in Nashville and Franklin and all profits go to four specific charities.

ThriftSmart's Shannon Taylor explained, "We want to be as transparent as possible with the people that are generous enough to donate to our stores."

There was nothing in the new law or even in existing law that said how much a for-profit company must give a charity when it claims to be helping it. But regulators hoped consumers would use this new information to make informed choices when they're donating.

"Really ask the hard questions. Ask organizations where it's going, how much and see what answers they give you," the state's Brent Culberson suggested.

The new law also said bin owners must first get written and notarized permission from property owners and they have to regularly empty out and clean up around their bins.

One of the bin companies, Better World Books, told NewsChannel 5 Investigates Wednesday that they pulled out all 15 bins they had in the area yesterday because they didn't think they could comply with the law.

Again, if you see one of these bins that you think is not in compliance with the new law, you can report it to the state just by posting a photo of it on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram with the hashtag "#BinCheck."

Be sure to include the location of the bin, including the city, county and any businesses it may be near.