Donation bins see spike in treasure and trash as spring cleaning, pandemic collide

Many people are spring cleaning while staying home, and donation bins are reaping the rewards, along with a spike in trash, or unusable items, that come with it.

In the past two months, Planet Aid, a national nonprofit that collects clothing, saw an increase of 30-40% in local donation bins, according to Keith Gregory, operations manager for Planet Aid’s Southern New England operation, based in Milford. Just in the month of April, Planet Aid collected 2.4 million pounds of useable donated goods locally, which is up by roughly 250,000 pounds, he said.

Planet Aid, which then sells those donated goods to raise money for programs globally, provided their drivers, who pick up the donations, personal protective equipment at the start of the pandemic, deciding to continue operating as safely as possible.

“We have an obligation to continue to service [the publicly placed bins] because, if we didn’t, I think you can imagine the amount of trash and dumping that would be there,” Gregory said.

As it stands, Gregory said dumping of trash and unusable goods at the bins, which are set up to collect clothes and shoes alone, is up by about 80% over the past two months.

Another organization that accepts donated goods, Morgan Memorial Goodwill Industries, closed its Goodwill Donation Centers when Gov. Charlie Baker first ordered “non-essential” businesses to close, according to James Harder, the organization’s director of communications and public.

“We’ve been operating remotely since day one [and] our stores are obviously closed,” Harder said. “We have been encouraging folks to hold onto their donations until after we are able to reopen our stores.”

Harder told Boston 25 News that a steady stream of donations is coming into Goodwill’s centers anyway, so a limited amount of staff remains on hand to process the goods.

The donations allow Goodwill to sell low-cost, gently used goods to people whose budgets might be tighter in the coming months and those sales allow Goodwill to continue its job placement services, along with others, that are the core of its mission, Harder said.

“I started working at Goodwill in the fall of 2008, right at the onset of the Great Recession,” he said. “I remember the demand for career services and job training was very, very high then and we expect it will be similar to that now.”

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