Hartland Township is looking into some mysterious collection boxes that have been appearing around town lately.
“There are these blue boxes that are for a variety of charities,” Hartland township planning director Mardy Stirling said. “They started popping up, kind of just all over. I know one of them in particular is located on a property that they did not get permission."
The Hartland Meijers, which was one of those locations, had the bins removed immediately, according to Stirling.
These large donation centers are considered to be outdoor storage containers according to Stirling, which are not permitted within the township. The bigger question, however, is the validity of some of these charities listed on the containers.
“The larger concern is that people are putting their donations in these boxes,” Stirling said. “And I don’t know if they’re going where they think they’re going.”
Stirling began calling the numbers listed on the containers requesting that the organizations come and remove their bins. She began to get suspicious, however, when she was unable to get a response back from any of the charities.
“The people that answer the phone, they just say this is a recycling center,” she said.
With names such as the Childhood Disease Research Foundation and the Institute for International Cooperation & Development, Stirling says that trying to verify who some of the organizations were and what they did was difficult.
“When you actually go in and you plug in some of the names, they don’t come up in any kind of referral type of list or checklist for the state of Michigan Better Business Bureau,” Stirling said.
Pauline McNutt, manager at the Hartland Best Western, says that she, however, was personally contacted by an organization, Planet Aid, which currently has a yellow box located at the end of the hotel's business drive on Old U.S.-23.
Assuming it was a nonprofit organization, McNutt agreed to let the group place its container on her property.
“I would rather see clothes go somewhere in good use than in the trash,” McNutt said. “It’s such hard times now, and if it would help people, I don’t have a problem.”
Chris Thompson, the Transportation Manager of Planet Aid, which is a nonprofit organization that collects donated clothing and shoes to help communities around the world, says that although his organization does do all its own placements and collections, there are for-profit companies that collect for nonprofit organizations and some don’t always follow the rules.
“We’re trying to be responsible and make sure everyone’s happy and doing what we said we’d do,” Thompson said. “But we can’t control someone placing a bin next to ours. We encourage the property owners to track them down and if it was up to me I’d have them towed.”
The American Textile Recycling Services (ATRS), which is one of the for-profit companies collecting for nonprofits such as HERO, says that its policy is to contact business owners for permission as well before placing a bin. But, as in the case of Planet Aid, the ATRS black bins -- which have been placed in lots such as the Hartland CVS -- have run into similar situations where another bin was placed next to theirs without permission.
“Unfortunately it is something that we have to deal with,” Operations Manager for ATRS Mike Spath said.
When those situations occur, according to Spath, his company will try and help the business owner with the removal of the unwanted unit.
“Normally a phone call is enough,” he said. “You don’t have permission, someone noticed it, you have to move it. Unfortunately a lot of times though, they don’t return those phone calls.”
With some bins already being removed from business properties, Stirling says her main job is to monitor the land use and zoning permits where outdoor storage bins are not allowed in Hartland.
“I don’t want to have the community cluttered with these outdoor storage units and especially when the property owners haven’t approved them,” she said. “If they want to have that unit outside of their business then they can contact the township and we’ll figure out how to process that request.”
If a business would still like to provide the bins for its clients as a way to help the nonprofits, Spath says he will work with the township and has experience with writing specific ordinances that gives the municipality control over the bins.
But, Spath says, if no agreement can be reached, his company will remove the bins as quickly as possible.
“Even if in the long run,” he said. “If it hurts us and we have remove our boxes, we’re going to respect the township.”