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Phila. City Council Moves Toward Regulation of Donation Drop Boxes

By Mike Dunn

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- A City Council committee today approved what would be Philadelphia's first regulations on those large donation bins you often see in parking lots.

At a hearing this morning, Beth McConnell, policy director for the Philadelphia Association of Community Development Corporations (top photo), testified that in many Philadelphia neighborhoods, donation bins cause headaches.

"The bins have been placed in the public right-of-way and on vacant lots, have been the source of illegal dumping including household garbage, are consistently tagged with graffiti, as well as plastered with illegal event posters," she told the lawmakers.  "When they are poorly placed and poorly maintained, they are a blighting influence and a drag on neighborhood reinvestment."


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(Credit: CBS 3)


Eighth District councilwoman Cindy Bass, sponsor of the proposed regulations, agreed.

"You ride by these bins, they look awful," she noted.  "They're a magnet for other trash and dumping and debris.  It feels as if a lot of our neighborhoods have become dumping grounds for anything people don't want in their own neighborhood."


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(Councilwoman Cindy Bass. Image from City of Phila. TV)


Bass had originally proposed that owners of donations bins would be required to get a license from the city.  But after discussions with community groups and the city's Department of Licenses & Inspections, she amended the measure so that the bin owner only needs a written agreement with the property owner.  That revised version was approved by the Council committee.

One of Bass' constituents, James Harvey, said the blight of bins in the city's northwest is only getting worse.

"It's been an ongoing issue in our neighborhoods for the last four or five years," he said.  "The bins are a problem because they become dump sites."

The bill still includes a number of other requirements, including that the bins cannot visible from the public right-of-way.

The measure also requires that each donation bin be emptied at least once a week, and must be clearly marked with the name, address, and telephone number of the owner.

Rebecca Swanson, of the Department of Licenses and Inspections (photo below), said L&I will provide complaint-driven enforcement.

"We would cite both the owner of the property and the owner of the bin," she said.  "In some cases it's very difficult to ascertain who the owner of the bin is, but we would cite everyone we can find."


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(Rebecca Swanson. Image from City of Phila. TV)


Still, the devil is very much in the details.   Swanson and others at the hearing spoke of the difficulty of determining who owns the donation bin when no information appears on it.   And representatives of Planet Aid (below), a nonprofit group that places donation bins throughout the region, said the bill is vague in parts and overly specific in others, and they suggested further changes to the language before final passage by the full Council.


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(Terrt Kaplan, left, and Rick Serai testify on behalf of Planet Aid. Image from City of Phila. TV)


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