After complaints, clothing recycler pulls bins from Des Moines
A textile recycler has removed 13 collection bins in Des Moines following a string of violation notices from the city, he tells Axios.
Why it matters: The action could make recycling some items more of a pain, as DSM's residential recycling program doesn't accept clothing.
Yes, but: Multiple nonprofits already recycle textiles and some offer pickup services, Councilperson Member Linda Westergaard noted in a meeting this week.
- She compared the recycling bins to unsightly dumpsters on a front yard.
Catch up fast: Clothes Bins —a national franchise of vivid green collection drop boxes — markets itself as a convenient way to divert clothing from the landfill.
- The for-profit business makes money by selling the items to textile recyclers, making donations non-tax deductible.
Zoom in: Clive businessman Brad Burtnette began adding the bins to sites throughout central Iowa last year.
- He shares some profits with nonprofits and schools that host the bins. That amounted to just over $12,100 for those groups, which Burtnette says went mostly to schools between May 2022 and last month.
- He did not disclose his business' profits.
What's happening: The city treats these bins like waste collection receptacles under an ordinance that generally requires they be in a backyard.
- At least 11 sites have been issued code enforcement notices from the city of DSM since June, according to information presented to the council this week.
Driving the news: City zoning officials this week provided the City Council with photos of a bin that was partially blocking a sidewalk and one with items laying on the ground.
- Members then directed zoning enforcement officials this week to draft recommendations about better regulating the containers.
Of note: Code enforcement, which could include fines, is on hold while the city researches and considers the council's direction, Erik Lundy, a DSM zoning enforcement officer, said at this week's meeting.
What they're saying: Overflow problems are rare because the bins have sensors that alert to a needed pickup. They also have a phone number for people to report problems, Burtnette says.
- Even so, some council members expressed concern that other recycling operators could launch similar programs. More specific regulations could help avoid future problems, they said.
State of play: Burtnette says his goal now is to grow the bin program outside of DSM.
- Bins at eight DSM school sites remain because those are generally overseen by the district rather than the city.
- Eight more schools have requested bins, he notes.
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