British Columbia

Donation bins get safety upgrade in Prince George

The new wire bins have no trap doors or lids so someone climbing into the bin cannot get stuck. They come in two sizes and each has a locking wheel system and a sign to indicate their use to donors.

New, lidless design in response to bin deaths B.C. last year

A Prince George charity is launching a new system for its clothing donation bins, after several deaths of people stuck in similar bins across Canada. The non-profit says it's not worth the risk to use the bins at all, even if they're retrofitted for safety. (Audrey McKinnon / CBC)

A Prince George charity is replacing its clothing donation bins with a new, lidless design for increased safety in response to several deaths connected with similar bins in B.C. last year.

AiMHi Prince George Association for Community Living is in the process of pulling around 39 large, green bins from across the city and is asking local community organizations and local businesses to install an indoor, wire-frame bin for future clothing collection.

The new wire bins have no trap doors or lids so someone climbing into the bin cannot get stuck. They come in two sizes and each has a locking wheel system and a sign to indicate their use to donors.

​"AiMHi has scrutinized this. We're about providing people opportunities to have safe lives in the community and we don't want to have anyone to have an unfortunate incident in our bins," program manager Peter Campbell told CBC's Audrey McKinnon.

Recent deaths spark change

At least eight people have died in clothing donation bins in Canada since 2015. Although this type of accident is rare, two high profile deaths in B.C. in 2018 prompted some municipalities to lock donation bins and prompted calls for a redesign.

The large, outdoor bins have a gate mechanism designed to protect the clothes inside and keep people from getting into the bins.

In July, 2018 a woman died in Vancouver when she tried to climb into the bin and became stuck and in December a 34-year old man died in a West Vancouver bin.

The new wire bins have no trap doors or lids so someone climbing into the bin cannot get stuck. They come in two sizes and each has a locking wheel system and a sign to indicate their use to donors.

Frigid temperatures add to dangers

Removing the large green bins is not easy to do in Prince George winter conditions.The charity has hired a crane removal company to pry the bins from the icy street.

"The bins in some places were frozen to the ground," said Campbell.

He said people seeking a warm place to sleep or some extra layers to protect them against the winter weather were most at risk of being injured or killed in the trap door style bins.

When removing one such bin in downtown Prince George recently, workers found two people sleeping inside. This discovery supported the decision the charity had already made: the green bins needed to go before someone else got hurt said Campbell.

AiMHi is offering scheduled pickups to collect the donated items once their new donation station on First Ave opens on March 9.

Listen to the full interview here:

A Prince George charity is launching a new system for its clothing donation bins after several deaths of people stuck in similar bins across Canada. 4:25

With files from Audrey McKinnon and Daybreak North

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