Charities Clash over Unattended Collection Bins

A bill awaiting action August 20 on the Senate floor would restrict the placement of unattended donation boxes on private property.

Sponsored by several Northern California chapters of Goodwill Industries, the measure stalled August 13 but won reconsideration. 

Assemblywoman Cathleen Galgiani

AB 1978 by Assemblywoman Cathleen Galgiani, a Tracy Democrat, would require written permission by a property owner or their designee before one of the large, usually metal containers can be placed on a site.

“The property owner should be the one who gives permission because the property owner is the one who is going to be subjected to any code enforcement,” said Richie Ross, a Sacramento lobbyist and political consultant who is helping Goodwill with the bill and has Galgiani, a candidate for Senate, as a client. 

Companies that own the bins affected by the bill like USAgain, Planet Aid and The Gaia Movement say the measure is an attempt by Goodwill to reduce competition by making it difficult to place a bin and easy for land owners and towing companies to seize amd remove containers.

“It’s become a problem… the proliferation of unattended collection boxes in cities,” Galgiani told the Stockton Record when she introduced the bill in April.

Her bill is the second in as many years to increase regulation of the seemingly ubiquitous collection bins that dot supermarket and retail center parking lots around the state.

A number of localities, including Sacramento, have approved ordinances similar to Galgiani’s requiring property owner approval for box placement.

Some of those ordinances, like Galgiani’s bill, allow property owners to remove the collection bins – free of liability – if no permission is given for placement.

Collection boxes affected by Galgiani’s bill already must display various disclosures.

Among them, contact information for the entity that owns the bin and whether the owner is a non-profit or for-profit entity. USAgain, for example, is for profit. Non-profits must say what cause benefits from the donation. For-profits must say the donation isn’t tax deductible.

Opponents of Galgiani’s bill say additional regulation isn’t needed — just better enforcement of existing law. 

The disclosure law – AB 918 by Assemblyman Anthony Adams, a Hesperia Republican – was also backed by Goodwill.

“Goodwill Industries are community based non-profits that provide jobs and job training to people with disabilities and other barriers to employment,” writes Goodwill Industries of Sacramento Valley and Northern Nevada in support of  Galgiani’s bill.

“Across the state there has been a recent surge of unattended collection boxes. They have become a nuisance, target for illegal dumping and a blatant violation of property rights,” Goodwill writes.

“Of equal concern is that some for-profit companies, disguised as ‘charities,’ have leveraged people’s good nature in order to use these bins to generate revenue.”

Ross says in the Sacramento Valley alone such ‘charities’ siphon $ 8 million annually from other “legitimate” charities.

Opponents like the non-profit Gaia Movement in a June 8 letter, counter:

“The sponsor’s clear intent is solely to reduce and eliminate other organizations which it views as its direct competitors from collecting used textiles in California.  “A California monopoly by Goodwill Industries will not move us in the direction we need to go and reduce the opportunity for California citizens to recycle used clothing and textiles.”

Gaia says it “always” gets permission from business owners or property owners before placing a bin on-site.

Planet Aid, also a nonprofit, says in its June 13 letter of opposition that Goodwill doesn’t use collection bins and “so are not even stakeholders in this bill except as they may indirectly benefit from the harm done to their perceived competition.”

Says Ross:

“Goodwill cares because some portion of the $8 million that’s getting siphoned off would go to them. But Goodwill is really an employer. The money they get is used to hire the disabled – 2,000 people who otherwise wouldn’t have jobs. 


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