New Westminster takes aim at donation bins

The City of New Westminster is contacting owners of clothing and donation bins to ensure the bins are safe – and warning owners that action could be forthcoming if they’re unsafe.

Council has directed staff to forward a letter to the operators of clothing and donation bins in the city seeking confirmation that they have retrofitted or replaced their bins to address safety-related concerns. A staff report states that there have been four deaths associated with clothing and donation bins in Metro Vancouver between 2015 and 2018.

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“From what we understand, most of these bins are being retrofitted or replaced. The letter was really to clarify if that work has been done,” said John Stark, the city’s senior social planner. “If we find out that there are bins that have not been replaced or retrofitted, we would bring that immediately back to council.”

According to a staff report, there are eight clothing and donation bins in New Westminster, all of which are located on private property. Staff has heard that local bins have been retrofitted or replaced, but wants to confirm that as soon as possible.

“I think there is some onus on operators to ensure they are not a public safety hazard,” Stark said. “In the letter, we will be including more information than a polite ‘let us know’. We will be outlining some of the concerns, and could state that if we find that these bins are a public safety hazard that we will be seeking further redress from council.”

Kim Deighton, the city’s manager of licensing and integrated services, said the city doesn’t currently have the legal standing with respect to bins on private property.

Staff noted, however, that if operators haven’t retrofitted or replaced problematic bins, the city could make changes to zoning bylaws that allow the city to address the concerns.

Staff will report back to council after contacting the operators of the bins located in New Westminster.

A staff report stated a number of municipalities have banned or placed restrictions on clothing and donation bins, with some (including Delta, Maple Ridge, Pitt Meadows and West Vancouver) taking steps to ensure the safety of the bins, and others (Burnaby and Surrey) banning donation bins on city property. Richmond has adopted a donation bin regulation bylaw that outlines standards and requirements for donation bins.

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