A couple weeks ago I noted that area parking lots were sprouting red metal donation boxes owned by a North Carolina company that has been in hot water with state authorities over representing itself as a charity.
The company, Better World Recycling, has recently applied for nonprofit status, but that application has been rejected by the North Carolina Secretary of State.
Columbia County officials have been working to bring Better World into compliance with Georgia law, which requires that such unattended boxes must make clear whether the item will benefit a charity. For-profit companies must have a statement on each donation box that says, “Donations are not for the benefit of any charitable or religious organization.”
The Columbia County Sheriff’s Office has given Better World two weeks to comply with those state regulations.
According to sheriff’s Capt. Steve Morris the company owner, Ahmad Ramounieh, says he is willing to make the changes to his boxes, but hasn’t yet. The clock is ticking.
Meanwhile, officials have discovered that another for-profit recycler, Second Life Recycling, has dropped off some of its green boxes in the county.
Second Life isn’t trying to pass itself off as a charity and has a notice on its boxes to that effect, but not in the language and format required by the state law. Morris said the company officials he has spoken with don’t seem to be interested in changing anything to meet state codes. He said the Georgia Secretary of State’s office is willing to take up the case if these companies don’t comply.
“The law is the law and we will enforce it, but will intend to be fair,” Morris said.
I think the sheriff’s office has better things to do than police donation boxes in private parking lots. It’s really something that should be addressed at the local code enforcement level.
Another issue is that all the boxes are on private property, so unless the property owners complain, authorties don’t have the power to haul off boxes that don’t meet state codes, and local codes don’t really address the issue. It’s also possible that many of these corporate property owners aren’t even aware that the boxes are there.
The recycling business is growing, as are the number of companies looking to take advantage gaps in local codes to harness the constant stream of discarded items coming from our closets.
Other counties have already acted to stem the flood of donation boxes lining the edges of parking lots.
Macon-Bibb County, for example, has adopted an ordinace that prohibits for-profit recyclers from dropping off such unattended boxes. It allows boxes that belong to bonifide charities with licenses to do business in the county. We could do the same, or find our own solution. Or we can just let it ride and see what happens.
So far, it’s only a couple companies and a few dozen boxes in Columbia County, but more certainly will come.