INSIDE EDITION Investigates Clothing Donation Bins
Bruce Binler of Long Island, NY owns hundreds of clothing bins. They look like the ones used by major charities like The Salvation Army and Big Brothers Big Sisters, where every penny goes to charity.
But an I-Squad investigation found some bins are not what you think. Binler and other operators like him keep most of the money.
When the I-Squad checked out his bins at the Meadowbrook Commons shopping center in Freeport, NY, they were labeled with a logo for The National Cancer Center. Based on the markings, many people think all the donations are going directly to the cancer charity, but they're not. Binler's for-profit bins have taken in millions of dollars worth of clothing. But the charities only get a fraction and Binler keeps most of the proceeds.
Donors we spoke to were shocked.
"I won't dump in there any more, I won't put the stuff in there anymore now that I'm fully informed," one donor told us.
But how would a donor know? The bins don't say anything about where the donations go. Some of Binler's bins do say they are for-profit, but even then, donors we spoke to had no idea all of their clothing donations were not going to charity.
"I never noticed that on there," said another donor.
And worse, because of these bins, well-known charities are losing out.
"We've had to lay some people off over the years; we've had to close down some programs," says Tom Abate of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.
Abate says his charity's bins have been tossed out of six shopping centers on Long Island.
And in every case, they were replaced by for-profit bins, whose owner pays for the space.
We met Binler as he was on his way to work.
"Don't your clothing bins mislead the public into thinking they're donating to a charity when they are not?" asked INSIDE EDITION's Lisa Guerrero.
"Not at all, not at all," said Binler.
"You're not a legitimate charity, are you?" Guerrero asked.
Binler said, "No, we are a for-profit company."
"Weren't you fined $50,000 by a judge in Connecticut for doing the same thing you're doing right now in New York?" Guerrero asked him.
"No, that's not true," Binler said.
But the I-Squad uncovered a $50,000 check Binler's company wrote to the state of Connecticut because a judge found he misrepresented where the donations to his bins were going.
"Isn't this a scheme to make you rich?" Guerrero asked.
"No it's not, excuse me, I have to go," Binler said.
Binler isn't the only one making big bucks off your donations.
Mark Field of H&M Leasing owns roughly 1,000 bins on the East Coast. His bins have all kinds of charity logos on them, but he keeps most of the proceeds. Field says he's helped many charities.
"It has no signage that says 'for-profit,'" Guerrero told him.
"You're on a campaign, you're on a campaign," said Field.
"It's an easy fix for you," said Guerrero.
"I have no problem with it, we make the most beautiful, highly decorated bins in the country, you want 'for-profit' on it, it doesn't bug me, I can put 'for-profit' on it, if that will make you happy," Field said.
So before you drop your next bag of clothes in a bin, make sure you know where your donations are going, because charities like The Salvation Army count on your donations to help feed and house people around the country.
"If we didn't have the clothing, and the household items, and the furniture donated to us, we could not provide these services to these men and women in this program," said Maj. David Wilson of the Salvation Army.
The charities on those for-profit bins say they grant permission to use their names and logos in exchange for a fee.