UBC Okanagan has funding and an idea for the retrofit of clothing donation bins.
There have been eight deaths caused by people being trapped in clothing donation bins since 2015. B.C. organizations pulled their donation bins off the streets. Inclusion BC removed 146 donation bins from sites around the province after a man’s body was found in a clothing donation bin in West Vancouver.
Cities including Burnaby, Richmond, West Vancouver and Pitt Meadows banned the bins.
Municipalities and the non-profit organizations that benefit from donated clothes have been waiting for a retrofit to make the bins safe.
This week, UBC Okanagan announced its retrofit project has received a $75,000 boost to design, create and test a prototype.
They also have a concept – a timer to automatically lock the bins during the hours people have typically climbed inside.
According to Ray Taheri, engineering instructor, efforts are focused on developing retrofit kits for existing donation bins while investigating intelligent systems that can unlock bins or alert emergency services.
“Anecdotally we know the majority of these incidents occur between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m., so we are looking at a few options including engaging automated locking systems between those hours,” he said.
The donation bin industry is a multi-million dollar enterprise across North America and funds charitable organizations including the Salvation Army, Diabetes Canada, Big Brothers and Sisters, Goodwill and many others.
The project isn’t without its challenges, as donation bins come in a variety of shapes, sizes and configurations, Taheri said. Each has a different design and uses a different door mechanism. As a result, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. Consequently, the task force may need to design unique stand-alone retrofitted solutions for each style of bin.