People losing their lives after getting stuck in a clothing donation bins in Canada is sparking calls to remove or fix the containers, which some people have called “death traps.”
The situation has Greater Victoria municipal officials scratching their heads about what can be done – and some organizations pulling the bins or retrofitting the boxes.
“This is something we are definitely looking at and it’s my feeling that the operators of the bins should probably remove them until they’re fixed,” said Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps.
“The problem is that if the bins are on private property we may have no authority to do anything about them. We’ll be looking at this, but in the meantime, the operators shouldn’t wait for the city before they do the right thing.”
It’s a sentiment shared by Colwood Fire Chief John Cassidy.
“The people operating the bins would require a right of way permit to be on public property, but if they’re on private land ints not clear that any local authority exists (over the operation of the bins). It’s the agencies that have to be responsible.”
In fact, three cities in B.C. have already cracked down on the bins, issuing removal orders to organizations operating the bins.
The confusion about civic authority aside, Inclusion B.C., the organization that operated a collection bin in Vancouver in which a 34-year-old man lost his life in late December has already removed its bins until they can be retrofitted.
Danielle Keliher, the director of communications for Inclusion B.C., said it was the only time that the organization has had any problems with its bins but, at an emergency meeting on Jan. 3, it decided to remove 146 bins placed in Greater Vancouver and elsewhere in B.C.
“Removal has already started and should be completed by early next week. All bins will be moved to secure storage until safety modifications can be made to ensure public safety,” Keliher said.
It’s a similar situation for the bins operated by Diabetes Canada.
“We’ve had bins for more than 25 years and it’s only been in the past few years that this has become an issue,” said Kathleen Powderly, director of communications for Diabetes Canada.
She said about 4,000 Diabetes Canada clothing donation bins exist across Canada and that the agency is in the process of retrofitting them. The most effective way, she said, for Diabetes Canada to modify these bins is to do it at each donation bin location.
“We’re expecting that all modifications will be completed by Jan. 18,” she said.
In Sooke, there are three bins operated by Diabetes Canada located on the grounds of Sooke elementary school, but Mayor Maja Tait said that the issue hasn’t been on the radar for council until recently.
“I understand that they (Diabetes Canada) are retrofitting the bins to make them safe, but we’ll be monitoring the situation, for sure.”
In other cases, however, the situation becomes more convoluted.
Carolyn Tuckwell, executive director of Brothers/Big Sisters, said that while the organization’s name appears on a number of bins in B.C., the bins are not operated by Big Brothers/Big Sisters.
“The bins are owned and operated by a company called Green Inspiration and they make a cash donation to our organization from the profits they make from operating the bins,” Tuckwell said.
“We care very much about our vulnerable populations and are working with Green Inspirations to make some design changes. We’re grateful for the financial support (that Green Inspirations offers) but human life trumps that and we’re supportive of anything that needs to be done. We need to make certain that people are safe.”
Green Inspiration did not immediately respond to requests for an interview.
At least seven people have recently died in Canada while trying to get into the bins and many others have been extracted from the bins by emergency staff.
Five deaths have occurred related to the clothing collection bins in B.C. since 2015.