Charity donation bins in Richmond a magnet for junk, says city

City council in Richmond, B.C., says it's cracking down on people using donation bins to get rid of their junk because of a flood of complaints on the matter.

New rules include fees and fines for charities operating the bins

Charles Stratford shows CBC reporter Jesse Johnston the piles of junk that pile up at a row of charity donation bins near his home in Richmond, B.C. (CBC)

City council in Richmond, B.C. says it's cracking down on people using charity donation bins to get rid of their junk because of a flood of complaints on the matter.

Richmond resident Charles Stratford's home is next to a row of the donation bins. He says people have dropped off everything from expired medicine to toilets.

"If I hadn't been here yesterday, you would see a fridge sitting here," said Stratford, who convinced the person dropping it off to take it elsewhere.

"The people were kind of reluctant. I even helped him put it back in his van."

Fees and fines proposed

City staff have assessed there are about a hundred donation bins in Richmond, and many are a magnet for junk.

The report, originally presented by city staff in August 2015, has led the city to consider a new set of rules to hold bin operators accountable.

The City of Richmond, B.C., says messy donation bins like this one have become too common a site. (CBC)

Those rules include a $1,100 damage deposit for bin operators and a $150 fine if the bins get too messy. The motion is controversial as many of the bins are operated by charities.

"Unfortunately, a lot of people misuse these bins," said Richmond spokesperson Ted Townsend. 

"They're meant to collect certain items for charity, but what we find is people bring anything they have that they think they want to recycle."

Cost to taxpayers

Townsend said some messes have been so bad, city crews have been called to clean them up. One pile of junk recently took crews an hour and a half to clear up.

"We can't expect taxpayers to bear the burden of the cost of keeping these bins and keeping the surrounding environment clean," said Townsend.

"Ultimately, the responsibility has to lay with the owner and operator of the bins."

Stratford said he doesn't care who owns the bins — he says his main concern is the soggy, stinking pile of filthy rubbish that's piling up near his home.

"This was a lot nicer here before these bins were here," said Stratford. "Now it's just a free for all where you can come in and throw it all down."

The motion will go to council for a final vote next week. 

With files from Jesse Johnston