Hundreds of clothing donation bins across Metro Vancouver should be recalled and redesigned after the fourth recent bin-related death in B.C., says Nicole Mucci of the Union Gospel Mission.
“If this was a child’s toy or any other kind of product that was consumed by the general population and not our most vulnerable population it absolutely would be recalled until the product was re examined and redesigned and redistributed,” said Mucci, spokeswoman for the UGM.
“It’s devastating to think that four people have lost their lives in B.C. over the past few years due to the structural design and crawling in, in their desperate moments. It’s time to just pull these bins off the streets until they can re equip them.”
Mucci was reacting to news that a 34-year-old Vancouver man died Sunday night, or early Monday morning, after becoming trapped in the access point of a Community Living Society bin in Ambleside Park in West Vancouver.
The openings are designed to close after the donation has been placed inside the bin, but they can be deadly if someone positions themselves part way in the opening to reach in and grab clothes and the mechanism traps them.
In July 2018, a woman died in a Developmental Disabilities Association bin at the West Point Grey Community Centre in Vancouver; in March 2016, a 20 year old man died in a clothing bin in Surrey and in September 2015 a woman died in a bin in Pitt Meadows. One man died in a bin in Ontario last month, while another died in Calgary in 2017.
Mucci said the UGM does not use clothing disposal bins to raise money or re-distribute clothing. She said that some charities clean the clothes and distribute them to people in need, while others sell the clothes to textile recyclers and use that money for their organization.
“They are still giving back to the community, but in a different way,” she said, adding there are hundreds of these bins throughout Metro Vancouver.
Since the July 2018, fatality Mucci has been in contact with Ray Taheri, a UBC Okanagan campus engineering lecturer whose students are striving to come up with a safe clothing bin design.
Taheri was upset to learn of yet another fatality.
“It’s so sad that something so beautiful turns into something so tragic,” he said, referring to the death.
Taheri said he will reach out to Mucci on Jan 2 and hopes to fast-track his first-year students’ designs and pass their work on to fourth year students for development to manufacture stage.
“It think I need to rush this further. I’m sure this happens all over and we are looking for a global solution,” Taheri said.
He said there would be problems with a total recall of the hundreds of bins in Metro Vancouver, including where to store them all and coordinating the various charities that rely on the income from the bins.
According to latest government information, the Community Living Society had annual revenues of $27.4 million, with the bulk of that coming from the three levels of government. Therefore the bin revenue is only a small component.
Taheri said it would be better to come up with a temporary fix, and then retrofit the bins where they are, noting that is a “band-aid solution to a bleeding problem.”
The B.C. Coroner’s Service will investigation the latest tragedy.