You’ve cleaned out your closets as part of spring cleaning, or maybe you’re left with clothing items that didn’t sell at the latest garage sale. Donating the items to a charity for the less fortunate is a more likely alternative than just throwing them away, and besides, you can claim a tax deduction.
Those wanting to make charitable donations need to be attentive to where they’re depositing their used duds.
Drop the goods into a familiar blue Goodwill box or red and white Salvation Army bin and you’re helping fund a bona fide non-profit that puts the money back into the community.
Drop the clothes in a white USAgain (pronounced like “Use-Again”) or blue ReUse bin and you’re essentially giving away cash to a multi-million dollar enterprise. They bear the familiar colors and appearance of charitable organizations but are actually operated by large commercial recycling companies.
Clothing donation bins used to be the solitary territory of the Salvation Army and Goodwill – nonprofit agencies that work in the local community. Now ReUse Clothes of Oakland and USAgain of Chicago are using strategically placed collection bins along F Street and Yosemite Avenue in Oakdale under the pretext of charity or saving local landfills and then resell your “donated” items.
Make no mistake that recycled clothing from America is big business, especially when resold abroad.
“It’s misleading, the public thinks they’re donating and helping people,” said Shelly Wooden, director of public relations for Goodwill Industries of San Joaquin Valley Inc.
While some of these resellers ask for used clothing and shoes under the semblance of a charitable donation, those like USAgain are not embarrassed to reveal they’re collecting your old garments and making a profit.
Toward the bottom of their green-blue-white bins, in much smaller writing reads, “USAgain is a for-profit clothes collection company. Deposits are not tax deductible.”
According to USAgain’s website, they are “…a for-profit company that collects unwanted textiles and resells them in the U.S. and abroad, effectively diverting millions of pounds of clothing from landfills, generating new revenue streams for U.S. businesses and non-profits, and fueling local economies in emerging countries.”
USAgain resells clothes to wholesalers either in the U.S. or overseas or reuses the mulched clothing as industrial rags, insulation or in car dashboards.
ReUse promotes itself stating, “The clothes and shoes donated in our drop boxes can be given a second chance and used by less fortunate families here and around the world. The donations make it possible for these families to purchase gently used clothing at a reasonable price.”
Unlike local charities, they are not helping those in the Oakdale community, but instead are sold to make a profit for ReUse.
Wooden said that in Modesto, Manteca, Stockton, and Tracy, bins were being placed at locations without permission of property owners. Tracy later clamped down on unstaffed drop-off bins resulting in an increase of donations at Goodwill’s staffed drop-off points.
“The Salvation Army never places a donation box without the written consent of a business or property owner,” said Cindy Engler, public relations director of The Salvation Army in San Francisco.
State Senator Cathleen Gagliani and Assemblymember Kristin Olsen have co-sponsored a bill to regulate the placement of these types of collection boxes and would allow cities to adopt ordinances for their removal.
“This is a reasonable measure that is about respecting the rights of property owners and businesses,” Olsen said.
The City of Oakdale Finance Office confirmed that USAgain currently has business licenses for its three bins. A search for ReUse in the city database did not locate any licenses.
“I think it is important that we protect our local businesses, including charitable and recycling businesses,” said Oakdale resident Mike Hancock upon viewing that more than 11 of these boxes were in town. “We don’t need “for-profit” companies from Chicago and other big cities hurting our local non-profit businesses with unfair and deceptive practices.”