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updated: 6/19/2012 12:56 PM

St. Charles cracks down on for-profit donation boxes

City OKs a permit and fee; nonprofits still can place boxes for free

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  • For-profit donation boxes appear very similar to those of charities. St. Charles officials will now regulate box types under a new law approved Monday night.

      For-profit donation boxes appear very similar to those of charities. St. Charles officials will now regulate box types under a new law approved Monday night.
    Courtesy of USAgain


It became a little harder for businesses to make a buck off clothing donations in St. Charles Monday night.

The city council approved a new permit and fee in an attempt to slow the proliferation of donation boxes around the city, many of which take the donated items and resell them for a profit.

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Many people think of donation boxes, often found in the parking lots outside businesses, as places to take their clothing, books or eyeglasses for people who are less fortunate. Under the new St. Charles law, those charities still can put up their donation boxes for free as long as they can prove nonprofit status.

But some of the boxes also belong to companies such as West Chicago-based USAgain. The company states on its website that it collected 60 million pounds of clothing, shoes and other textiles in 2011. USAgain then takes the donations and wholesales them to various secondhand shops around the world for a profit.

For-profit companies must apply for a permit and pay a $50 fee to establish a donation box under the new city ordinance.

USAgain's Carlo Cavallaro told aldermen Monday he supports the city's law as opposed to a ban of the for-profit boxes, such as Schaumburg established.

"The only people locked out in a ban is a company like mine," Cavallaro said.

He told aldermen Schaumburg banned his donation boxes because officials there simply thought it would be easier than regulating them. Cavallaro said St. Charles' approach is more reasonable.

The city's law regulates the location, size and number of donation boxes companies and organizations can place in St. Charles.

In other action, aldermen approved $275,000 of funding for the Downtown St. Charles Partnership. The organization works with city staff to promote downtown businesses. It organizes several annual events, such as the holiday homecoming, art show and a jazz festival that will debut later this year.

The $275,000 comes from a special taxing district in the downtown, and the funds will cover the bulk of the partnership's personnel and operating costs.

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