Many donation boxes belong to for-profit companies
Posted December 2, 2014
Raleigh, N.C. — Leann Futrell has used the green boxes she finds in store parking lots to donate old clothes and shoes. She never thought much about where her stuff goes.
“Hopefully, it goes to something good somewhere along the way, but I just know it's like a matter of convenience,” Futrell said.
Where it goes is into someone's pocket.
The boxes belong to Green Zone, a for-profit company. It sells the donated items to rag merchants, who ship them around the world to be sold again, mostly in developing countries.
Charity Recycling Services is another for-profit reseller. Despite the name, it's not actually a charity, either. That was a surprise to shopper Michael Taylor.
“I'll definitely never donate there then,” said Taylor, who usually donates through his church. “I'd rather give it to Goodwill and the Vietnam vets and some people that can get some use out of it.”
Local charities are concerned that donations are being diverted. But resellers say they provide a public service by keeping reusable items out of landfills. Their boxes are required to be clearly labeled. They're popping up everywhere lately, from gas stations to strip malls to neighborhoods.
Planet Aid is a licensed charity. Like the for-profits, it also sells donated clothes and shoes, but the group donates the net proceeds to charity organizations. According to their 2012 tax records, that was about 25 cents for every dollar's worth of clothing donated.
Secretary of State Elaine Marshall regulates the boxes. She says donors should always read the fine print and consider delivering their donations to a local group instead.
“Put a little bit of extra energy in it to make sure that it stays in this community and it gets to a good use,” she said.