Illegal dumping; City eyes regs on proliferating donation bins.
Linc Spaulding has arrived at work in Auburn on many mornings to find piles of junk furniture dumped at the foot of the clothing donation bins in his parking lot.
"Desks, mattresses, couches, chairs, everything under the sun," said Mr. Spaulding, president of Sheppard Envelope Co. on Southbridge Street. "Somebody came just recently and dropped a bunch of kids toys and junk all over the place."
In Worcester, Leif Mikkelsen figures at least eight grungy mattresses have been dumped at the clothing bin in the parking lot of his Strand's Ski Shop on West Boylston Street.
"From what I see, there's two kinds of people who drop stuff off. A guy comes up in a Mercedes. The stuff is all clean. It's usually folded. He makes sure it all goes in the bin," Mr. Mikkelsen said. "Then you have the bums that just dump stuff here."
While most bins are clearly labeled "clothing and shoes only" and some even proclaim in capital letters "no dumping," the metal donation boxes that have been proliferating throughout the city and region for years, as for-profit clothing recyclers joined nonprofits in seeking unwanted textiles, can become magnets for illegal dumping and blight. And that has cities and towns paying attention.
"It's enough of a problem that we are, at this point, drafting regulations because of the concerns we have in the city," said Amanda M. Wilson, Worcester's director of housing and health inspections.
"They technically don't fit any other ordinance, and we have seen them popping up in residential areas," Ms. Wilson said. "We've certainly had some issues with the number of them on a piece of property too."
Perhaps the single largest collection of bins in the city stands in Kelley Square, where Worcester-based Earth Aid Inc. has packed more than two dozen white clothing collection boxes at the intersection where Green and Harding streets meet.
The city's proposed new donation box regulations, which will get a final review by the Law Department before going to the City Council for action later this year, would not allow more than three bins on a property and would not allow bins to be the sole use of a parcel, as is the case in Kelley Square.
Even before the new regulations take effect, the city has issued zoning orders seeking the removal of a couple of donation boxes from residential property in the city, Ms. Wilson said. However, an Earth Aid box continued to be located in a driveway near the intersection of Endicott and Ward streets this past week.
Efforts to reach Earth Aid President Wioletta Saleba through telephone calls, emails and at the company's Cambridge Street address listed in state corporation records were unsuccessful.
Sheppard Envelope's Mr. Spaulding, who receives a small payment from Earth Aid to host the box in his parking lot, said the company has been good about hauling away dumped furniture and other trash from the area around the boxes.
"I've been in the area many Sunday afternoons and seen stuff out there, and then Monday it's gone," he said. "I can't say I haven't been upset once or twice, but, all in all, it's been positive."
Mr. Mikkelsen of Strand's Ski Shop had a similarly good report on the track record of the company that owns the box in his parking lot, Mint Green Planet Inc. of Worcester.
Both Earth Aid and Mint Green Planet sell the collected textiles in bulk to other companies and donate a small portion of their profits to local charities. The clothing dropped off in boxes placed by charities such as The Salvation Army and St. Vincent de Paul Society typically are sorted and sold in local thrift stores.
Mint Green Planet owner Michael Sweeney said he's as frustrated as anybody by illegal dumping at his boxes and considers it his responsibility to haul away old furniture and other junk when his crews empty the boxes.
"I don't know why somebody would leave a TV. I guess they don't care enough," Mr. Sweeney said. "Maybe they interpret it as somebody can use this TV. The reality is that it's trash. We've picked up hundreds of TVs, mattresses, couches, you name it. I fill my Dumpster every week. It's a problem."
Mr. Sweeney said a non-textile item that gets dumped inside his boxes all the time is books. He's been filling up large boxes with books at his Canterbury Street headquarters for months, not wanting to throw them away, but not sure what to do with them either.
He plucked two volumes from the boxes that he intended to read, a travel book about southern New England and a yellowed copy of the Charles Dickens classic "Great Expectations," the story of an orphan boy named Pip.
Worcester's Ms. Wilson said one grocery store in the city got so tired of illegal dumping at donation boxes on its property, they had them removed. In addition to banning all donation boxes from residential areas, the proposed new regulations would require boxes to be set back from structures and lot lines and neutral in color. The regulations would ban advertising from the boxes and require the company collecting donations to list its name, address and phone numbers on the bins.
"Our concern also is what happens if there's no longer a market for used textiles like there is right now," Ms. Wilson said. "We don't want abandoned clothing boxes all over the city."
Ms. Wilson said she recently noticed a box placed on a vacant Chandler Street lot on which the city holds a lien after demolishing a derelict building there. A similar situation happened in Oxford, where a donation bin popped up on the lot of a former gas station on Main Street, land on which the town has a claim.
"Somebody just put out a bin and wasn't picking the stuff up," said Town Manager Joseph Zeneski, who couldn't recall what organization's name was on the box. "It was an eyesore for the neighborhood. We got the name off the bin and tried to contact the owner, but we finally just picked up the bin and took it to the highway garage."
Thomas Caywood can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
CUTLINE: (1) Shoes, food containers, papers and a broken picture frame litter the area around Earth Aid clothing bins in a parking area of Kelley Square in Worcester. (2) Earth Aid clothing bins are lined up in a parking area in Kelley Square in Worcester Tuesday. (3) A large clothing donation box sits adjacent to the westbound lanes of Route 9 near the intersection of Bailey Road in Shrewsbury. (4) Above, att Route 20 and Route 56 eastbound, household trash has been left near collection boxes. (5) At left, rows of clothing donation boxes line an unused parking lot at Kelley Square in Worcester.
PHOTOG: (1, 2) T&G Staff Photos/RICK CINCLAIR (3, 5) T&G Staff Photos/PAUL KAPTEYN (4) T&G Staff/CHRISTINE PETERSON
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|Publication:||Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)|
|Date:||Oct 2, 2011|
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