(THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck) A man tries to retrieve items from a clothing donation bin in Vancouver, on Wednesday December 12, 2018.

Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows will consider clothing bin bans

Mayors say city staffers will research donation bins in light of recent deaths

Three municipalities in the Lower Mainland have banned clothing donation bins because people have been killed by getting stuck in them. Soon Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows could follow suit.

A 34-year-old man was found dead inside a clothing bin in West Vancouver on Dec. 30. Then on Tuesday, there was another similar death involving a 35-year-old woman in Toronto.

Loretta Sundstrom, the mother of Anita Hauck, said this past week that she could not believe the donation bins are still in use, after her daughter was killed after being stuck in one in September 2015 in Pitt Meadows.

There have now been five such deaths in B.C.

West Vancouver, Burnaby and Richmond have all taken steps to ban the bins.

The latest, Richmond issued a temporary removal order to five organizations with bins in the city, giving them 24 hours to remove or lock the bins.

Maple Ridge Mayor Mike Morden plans to have city staff look into the issue.

“Obviously it’s a concern, and there should be some evaluation done,” he said.

He agreed the issue hits home, given the death of Hauck, for whom the tent city in Maple Ridge is still named.

“I knew Anita personally at different stages of her life, so it resonates,” said Morden.

A UBC Okanagan engineering professor has tasked his students with creating a safe donation bin design or retrofit, and Morden is hopeful a solution can be found.

The new mayor served as a board member for the Ridge Meadows Association for Community Living, which received donations through bins around the community, and said the bins serve an important purpose.

There are an estimated 2,000 clothing donation bins in B.C. alone.

Inclusion B.C. has announced it will pull 146 clothing donation containers it has around the province, but other organizations have not followed their lead.

Hauck was killed at a bin located at the Real Canadian Superstore in Pitt Meadows. That city’s mayor, Bill Dingwall, said he and senior staff discussed a potential ban this week, in light of the recent deaths.

“For humanitarian and public safety reasons, we, too, have concerns here in Pitt Meadows,” he said.

Staff is researching options, will look at the city’s authority on public versus private property, and will take the issue before council, he said.

“It’s an important one,” said Dingwall. “It’s one thing if people were being injured – but people are losing their lives because of these bins.”

He noted there are a lot of clothing donations made through the bins, but said members of the public could still donate publicly at storefront charities, such as the Salvation Army.

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