Those bright red boxes you see cropping up in parking lots all over the county are not what they seem.
Sure, they look like convenient places to drop off unwanted household items. The large white letters that say “Clothing and Shoes” on the side gives the appearance that each is a collection site for a local charity.
That’s what Better World Recycling wants you to think.
But, Better World’s red boxes are not for charity, at least not so far.
The North Carolina company has a track record of collecting donated clothing, shoes and books at locations across surrounding states and then selling it overseas for a profit.
The company got into hot water in its home state earlier over the way it conducts business. The company’s owner, Ahmad Ramounieh, is facing sanctions over the way his donation bins are marked.
According to an administrative order filed April 15 by the North Carolina Secretary of State, Ramounieh was ordered to pay $21,500 in fines for violations of the state’s Charitable Solicitations Act.
The order said Better World is not a public charity and didn’t display the proper disclosure language required by the state on at least 55 bins. The order also says Better World misrepresented its relationship with several charitable groups on its Web site.
A second order filed in June sought an additional $8,000 in fines and demanded a complete list of all the company’s bin locations in North Carolina. It also sought an accounting of any donations Better World has made to charities.
This might have something to do with why Better World has since applied to be recognized as a charity in North Carolina and has recently changed its articles of incorporation to that of a nonprofit.
Thus far, the Secretary of State has denied the company’s application.
In Georgia, it has yet to be recognized as a charity as well. That being the case, it seems pretty clear that the company’s boxes are in violation of Georgia law, which states companies that solicit donations through such unattended boxes must make clear whether the item will benefit a charity.
Those that collect items for profit must have a statement that says, “Donations are not for the benefit of any charitable or religious organization.”
Actual charities or nonprofits must have another set of very specific language marking their boxes. Better World’s boxes comply with neither set of regulations.
Columbia County code enforcement officials say Better World reluctantly provided them a list of box locations and registered as a business after several requests were made this summer.
Company representatives provided documents indicating the company was converting to a nonprofit, so maybe Better World is trying to become a charity. Perhaps it will come into compliance with state law.
That remains to be seen.
What we do know, however, is that there are plenty of large and small local charities that do need your donations.
These organizations use donated items to help needy families that live in this community. If you want to know more about them, you can call them up, or drop by a local office. You can even volunteer some of your time lending a hand.
As for me, I’ll be taking my donations to a place where I know I can help, not to a company that is helping itself.