Bin deaths raise con­cerns

‘No one should die over cloth­ing do­na­tions’

North Bay Nugget - - NORTH BAY NUGGET - PJ Wil­son

Claude Beaulne has let the Cana­dian Di­a­betes As­so­ci­a­tion park a cloth­ing do­na­tion bin out­side his store for the past three or four years.

“I haven’t had any prob­lems. Peo­ple are re­ally good,” Beaulne, the owner of East Side Va­ri­ety, said Thurs­day.

But over the past few years, seven peo­ple across Canada have died in the bins after crawl­ing in­side. And now, Beaulne ad­mits, he’s be­com­ing con­cerned.

“It be­ing on my prop­erty, who is re­spon­si­ble if some­one (gets in­side and) gets trapped?” he won­ders.

“Whose li­a­bil­ity is it if it’s on a busi­ness’s pri­vate prop­erty?”

Beaulne has owned the store for the past 12 years, and had no hes­i­ta­tion about al­low­ing the as­so­ci­a­tion to put the ‘Clothes­line’ bin near the side door of his busi­ness.

A driver with the as­so­ci­a­tion emp­ties the bin every week, and some­times, when a do­na­tion is too large to fit in the small open­ing, peo­ple just leave it be­side the bin.

Beaulne has checked the bin to sat­isfy him­self that no one can slip in. A large metal flap swings down to re­strict en­try when the drop­down door is opened.

“I think you’d have to have some­one on top hold­ing them up by the an­kles,” cus­tomer Larry Bishop says. “I can’t see how some­one could get in by them­selves.”

“Even a large par­cel – a bag – is too big to fit in,” Beaulne says.

A woman who was found par­tially in­side a Toronto cloth­ing do­na­tion bin early Tues­day morn­ing was pro­nounced dead soon after. Her death prompted Toronto Mayor John Tory to re­quest a re­view of the bin do­na­tion sys­tem, in­clud­ing whether it’s the best way to col­lect used cloth­ing.

Ques­tions have been per­co­lat­ing be­fore Tues­day’s death. There have been re­ports of five deaths in B.C. since 2015. On Dec. 30, a 34-year-old man was found lodged in a bin in Van­cou­ver. On Nov. 1, the body of a man was found stuck in the chute of a bin in a park­ing lot in Cam­bridge, Ont.

In the U.S., causes of death have ranged from suf­fo­ca­tion to hy­pother­mia and trauma after a Penn­syl­va­nia woman died after the step lad­der she was us­ing to fish items out of a bin col­lapsed, break­ing her arm and wrist.

Pa­tri­cia Lemieux, pres­i­dent of Ot­tawa Neigh­bour­hood Ser­vices, which has about 18 wooden boxes on city-reg­u­lated sites, says she once saw an adult hold­ing a child who was re­triev­ing a bag from a metal bin in Stittsville, Ont., be­long­ing to an­other or­ga­ni­za­tion.

“If you ever dropped him, how would you get him out? It’s dan­ger­ous,” she says. “It’s a sad sit­u­a­tion. No one should die over cloth­ing do­na­tions.”

The Sal­va­tion Army Thrift Store is hop­ing to ed­u­cate and raise aware­ness about do­na­tion bins by plac­ing cau­tion la­bels on ex­ist­ing bins, as well as other ef­forts.

“Do­na­tions are at the heart of what we do and we make every sin­gle item, no mat­ter how big or small, count in our mis­sion to sup­port lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties,” says Ted Troughton, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of The Sal­va­tion Army Thrift Store.

“We hope that these la­bels, and the dis­cus­sions tak­ing place in the pub­lic sphere and with our part­ners, help raise aware­ness around the proper use of do­na­tion bins.”

The string of deaths has Cana­dian char­i­ties scram­bling to retro­fit or re­design their metal bins.

Rangeview Fab­ri­cat­ing, a Toronto-area man­u­fac­turer, said Tues­day it has stopped pro­duc­ing the con­tain­ers while it works on safer de­signs. The bins were in­volved in at least two deaths.

Man­ager Bran­don Agro said char­i­ties had not ex­pe­ri­enced prob­lems with the bins for most of the 25 years rangeview has been pro­vid­ing them. But fol­low­ing the deaths since 2015, the time has come for im­me­di­ate ac­tion.

That ac­tion, in­volv­ing mod­i­fi­ca­tions to cur­rent de­signs and an ac­tive search for new ones, may re­quire char­i­ties to sac­ri­fice some anti-theft mea­sures and fo­cus on pro­tect­ing vul­ner­a­ble pop­u­la­tions, Agro says.

“We’re kind of say­ing to our char­i­ties, ’you’re go­ing to have to deal with the theft be­cause pub­lic safety is No. 1,”’ Agro says. “If some­one is go­ing to go into your bin and take your prod­uct, that’s go­ing to have to be how it is for now.”

Agro says the bins most com­monly in­volved in deaths are mail­box-style de­signs with an in­ter­nal flap prevent­ing peo­ple from reach­ing in­side.

He says the de­signs fea­ture metal bars that cre­ate a “pinch point” when ac­ti­vated, often by peo­ple try­ing to get into the boxes.

Di­a­betes Canada, which has about 4,000 bins across Canada, an­nounced Jan. 4 that it was work­ing to make ad­just­ments to all of its bins in an ef­fort to pre­vent in­jury or death. The cost to retro­fit Di­a­betes Canada’s “rolling chute” cloth­ing do­na­tion bins is be­ing cov­ered by the man­u­fac­turer, rangeview, spokes­woman Kath­leen Pow­der­ley said. More than 240 bins have been retro­fit­ted in on­tario.

The cost is not yet known, but it is ex­pected to be lower than re­plac­ing the bins or re­mov­ing them. Di­a­betes Canada earns about 25 per cent of its to­tal rev­enues from cloth­ing do­na­tions and uses the money to sup­port its re­search, send chil­dren Di­a­betes Canada camps, for ad­vo­cacy and re­sources for health-care pro­fes­sion­als, she said. Mod­i­fi­ca­tions are to be com­pleted by Jan. 18.

With files from Na­tional Post

PJ Wil­son/the Nugget

Larry Bishop opens a do­na­tion bin at East End Va­ri­ety in North Bay, Thurs­day. Store owner Claude Beaulne said he is con­cerned about the li­a­bil­ity of host­ing the bin after at least eight peo­ple have died in the bins in Canada over the past few years.

PJ Wil­son/the Nugget

A 'Clothes­line' bin is opened to ac­cept a do­na­tion, Thurs­day, show­ing the gap be­tween the door and the bin.

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