Clothing Recyclers Oppose Box Ordinance

We’ve all seen those green or blue containers around town, clothes spilling out of the mouth. Well, enough people have complained to the city about drop-off containers for used clothing, mostly in grocery story parking lots, as being magnets for graffiti and trash, that San Jose’s Planning Commission agreed earlier this year to do something.

There’s now a proposed ordinance on the matter going before the City Council that would require companies to buy a permit to set up a drop-off container. You know, so it’s not the Wild West of unattended containers around here.

But some people suspect this is part of a larger strategy by Goodwill Industries, Inc. to put up a little more red tape for companies that own the scattered-about donation boxes.

“This must be called what it is: another attempt by Goodwill to use elected officials and their respective legislative bodies to do their budding,” writes John Lindsay, a top exec for anti-drug education nonprofit D.A.R.E. in a letter to the city. “At the state and local level, Goodwill continues to incorporate legislation as part of their business strategy to reduce or eliminate competition.”

Goodwill is just using San Jose to prop up its used clothing monopoly, continues Lindsey, a former detective of the Palo Alto Police Department, in a letter submitted to the public record of the Rules and Open Government Committee that meets Wednesday.

“The ‘Unattended Collection Containers Ordinance’ being considered by the city of San Jose is just the latest attempt by Goodwill to corner the market, eliminate [competition] and increase their standing, and theirs along, in the U.S. industry,” he writes.

D.A.R.E. uses these collection bins to raise money, Lindsey says, and always asks a property owner for permission to place a bin. If the ordinance passes, nonprofits like D.A.R.E. would have to pay hundreds of dollars in permitting fees, taking away from the charity.

But that’s not exactly why he wrote the letter. He’s says he’s more concerned about giving the public more clothing recycling options by supporting the accessibility of these donation stations.

Used clothing recycling has become big business. CalRecycle estimates that about 880,000 tons a year of textiles end up in landfills in California alone, Lindsey points out. Why give all the business to Goodwill instead of the hundreds of small recycling for-profits and nonprofits that have cropped up in recent years to recycle used clothes?

It’s not just San Jose that’s being bullied into passing “Goodwill legislation,” as Lindsey calls it. Goodwill lobbied for a bill that would have outlawed permit-less collection containers throughout the entire state—AB 1978, authored by Cathleen Galgiani (D-Stockton)—had Gov. Jerry Brown not vetoed the plan.

Other items from the San Jose Rules and Open Government Committee agenda for April 24, 2013:

• Downtown Councilman Sam Liccardo wants to offer a free WiFi booster for every business that hires a new employee, opens up shop or renews a lease in his district during the next few months. Since the city announced its free outdoor “Wickedly Fast WiFi” in mid-March, Liccardo says he wants to promote it and expand its reach indoors. Business incentives seem a fine way to do that, he says.

“In a time of limited resources, this is a simple way the city can reward creating a new job, starting a new business or bringing a company to San Jose,” he writes. “Though small, if incentives like this can help push a couple of small businesses beyond the ‘survive-to-thrive’ tipping point, it will be well worth the effort.”

• Remember the ruckus raised over noise curfews at the Mineta San Jose International Airport last week? Well, another curfew conversation’s coming up, this one about raising fees for each violation. Right now, airlines have to cough up $2,500 every time a jet emits more than 89 decibels between 11:30pm and 6:30am. Councilmembers Sam Liccardo and Kansen Chu signed the memo proposing the change. The last time the city updated its violation fees was a decade ago.

• Just another month before the city has to come up with a budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year. The committee will review a schedule of upcoming budget study sessions, which the public is invited and encouraged to attend.

WHAT: San Jose Rules and Open Government Committee meets
WHEN: 2pm Wednesday
WHERE: City Hall, 200 E. Santa Clara St., San Jose
INFO: City Clerk, 408.535.1260

Jennifer Wadsworth is the former news editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.


  1. If the folks from D.A.R.E. are correct about the motive behind the proposed ordinance, then someone at City Hall is lying (in service to Goodwill). If that’s the case, then perhaps the D.A.R.E. group has some evidence.

    However, if the proposed ordinance is a genuine response to problems reported by city residents, then shame on D.A.R.E. for caring more about its own funding source than about the public good it purports to champion.

  2. I doubt airlines would care much about a $2500 violation.  Ellison infamously laughed about it and then scored a legal victory by getting an exemption.

    A G4 costs about $30k to fill with jet fuel.  A 727 costs $50k.  A 747 at least $330k.  Just for fuel.  This is a big, expensive and profitable industry; $2500 is a joke…

    The real threat is being grounded for multiple violations, in my opinion.

  3. Maybe This City should do something about the garbage and Graffiti that is plaguing this City ???? And while there at it , DO SOMETHING ABOUT THE PUBLICS’S SAFETY !!

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