Unattended Donation Bins? Clothes them down!

By Ken Katz

Back in March 2021, we encouraged readers to donate unwanted clothing and household goods to local non-profits — not to bins such as the ones shown above, nor in response to cards you may be getting in the mail saying that a truck will be in your neighborhood picking up donations.

The bins (left photo), in the Chevron gas station at 350 Grand Avenue, are in violation of Chapter 5.19 of Oakland’s Municipal Code that bans the placement of Unattended Donation Boxes in specific zones (including Adams Point) and requires that permits be obtained in zones where they are allowed.

After formal complaints were filed with the city, the bins were removed.  However, at some point later, they have re-materialized in the same location and are still in violation of the city ordinance. (The above photos were taken just last week. A new complaint was filed in February, 2023. Nothing happened! We spoke to the head of the Code Enforcement office in July and nothing happened. In late December, we reached out to the City Attorney’s office and, as a result of their intervention, Notices of Violations were sent and re-inspections scheduled.

The bins are operated by Texgreen Inc., a for-profit company. Law Enforcement Against Drugs is mentioned prominently but most likely, they will receive a tiny portion, if any, of the net proceeds

Texgreen, unfortunately, is not the only bin operator ignoring Chapter 5.19 of the Municipal Code. The bin in the center photo is on Excelsior Avenue adjacent to Brewer Middle School and is one of six operated in Oakland by USAgain — four of which are in or adjacent to schools. USAgain is the for-profit version of Recycle for Change which was previously known as Campus California. Both are part of an international conglomerate based in Denmark. For the record, shortly after the ordinance was approved, RFC sued the city claiming that the regulations were in violation of their freedom of speech rights but, thanks to the efforts of our City Attorney’s office, that argument was rejected at all levels including the Supreme Court.

What Texgreen, USAgain, and similar operators have in common is that they are for-profit businesses raking in millions of dollars and none of the clothing collected here stays here. According to Oakland’s Business Tax Office, neither has a current business license and neither is paying taxes on their proceeds. Although they claim to be saving the environment, all the useable clothing is shipped in tractor trailers (burning diesel oil) to the Gulf of Mexico where it’s loaded onto cargo ships, which emit even more diesel oil. The destination is primarily Africa where the goods are sold at prices so low that the whole process has decimated the local textile industry over the last few decades.

Much of the original motivation for the ordinance was the extent to which community and city council members were outraged by the graffiti covered bins and all the illegal dumping they attracted (see photo at right). Over time, it’s become increasingly obvious that the sensible choice is to donate instead to local non-profits that not only provide valuable services to the community, but also provide low-income residents the opportunity to purchase clothing and household goods at affordable prices and possibly jobs as well. 

For more background information, we recommend visiting the DonateOakland.org website. The site has many great listings, but not all have been updated. Here are some corrections:

  • Goodwill’s MacArthur Blvd. location is still accepting donations of clothing and household goods: 510-530-5361. 6624 San Pablo also accepts donations:  510-428-4911. The Broadway location is closed and the International Blvd. location no longer accepts donations.
  • Salvation Army still welcomes donations but no longer provides pick-up services.
  • Urban Furniture no longer has the Adeline location and hours have changed. For larger pieces of furniture please email photos to urbanfurniturestore@gmail.com
  • According to the Out of the Closet website, you can drop items off at any time and request a pickup via email.
  • ReCARES in Oakland is open on Fridays only.
  • Discovery Shop no longer picks up and hours have changed.
  • The Bambino Shop’s current drop-off hours are on their website
  • Harbor House Ministries. Check their website for details.
  • East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse is open Fridays only from 12 – 3pm



2 responses to “Unattended Donation Bins? Clothes them down!”

  1. Ruth stroup Avatar
    Ruth stroup

    Great list. Please add the Oakland Museum white elephant sale to the list. Great organization worthy of support. And all the “buy nothing” sites to share and repurpose items you no longer use

    1. Ken Katz Avatar

      The list on this article is just of corrections . The DonateOakland.org website does include the White Elephant Sale as well as the Bookmark Bookstore. Unfortunately, the host of the website has changed policies and updating the content is problematic.