Biz owners along Havana in Aurora struggle with unauthorized donation bins showing up

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AURORA | Kevin Hayutin, a property manager with Weststar Management, says he has seen every kind and color of donation bin.

“I’ve had them all, the blue ones, the white ones,” says Hayutin, who owns businesses along Aurora’s Havana Street corridor. “They drop them off at all of our shopping centers and on vacant parcels of ground I have. If you have one, you get more.”

Hayutin says the authenticity of the bins vary. Some, he says, simply get dropped off on a property in the middle of the night. When he tries to call the phone number listed on the donation bin, it goes nowhere.

“What happens is they drop them off, then we get things like couches and gigantically oversized items,” he says. “I get a call from the city that says, ‘You’re in code violation now, you have a pile of debris,’ and it costs me and my tenants money to get these things removed.” 

He says it has cost him tens of thousands of dollars to remove unwanted donation bins. He says some companies who drop off the bins have asked for permission first to locate on a property, but that many simply dump the bins on a property without warning and without any point of contact for removing them.

According to Gayle Jetchick, executive director of the Havana Business Improvement District, there are 19 collection bins from four different organizations spread along Havana Street.

Those companies include Atlas Global, USAgain, The Denver Children’s Advocacy Center and American Textile Recycling Services.

Jetchick said residents living near Havana Street have complained to her about various Atlas Global bins that were overflowing with not only clothing donations but mattresses and carpet rolls, despite several calls from businesses and commercial property managers to Atlas to remove the items. Atlas lists itself on its Aurora bins as a “for-profit” company. The phone number and email listed on its bins are both out of service.   

Donations from Atlas were intended to go to the Epic Community Thrift Store in Aurora, which was recently closed and seized by Arapahoe County for failing to pay rent.

The City of Aurora has no rules regarding the bins because they are located on private property. The issue is a tricky one for the city to regulate because any ban on the bins in commercial areas could constitute a violation of the first and 14th amendments.

That precedent was set last year in Michigan after Planet Aid, a Massachusetts-based nonprofit, sued the city of St. John’s, Mich., for attempting to ban donation collection bins. The organization claimed the city was discriminating against Planet Aid and still allowed other donation bins to be placed in the city, and that the law was a violation of free speech and equal protection. Michigan’s federal appellate judges ruled in Planet Aid’s favor that the bins were a form of constitutionally protected speech.

Some of Aurora’s donation bins have regular collections, according to the companies. Debra Stevenson, a spokeswoman with American Textile Recycling Services, says the company’s Aurora-based bins are serviced two to three times a week.

“We also have a 24-hour hotline that property owners or business managers can call if they get a lot of donations over the weekend,” she said.

Stevenson said the company always asks for permission before placing a bin near a property. She said the company also makes it easy for a business to reposition or remove the bin if it becomes a nuisance.

Though American Textile Recycling Services is a for-profit company, it does partner with local nonprofits to help fund them through donations made to its bins. In Aurora, ATRS partners with the Colorado Sled Hockey Association, a program that is part of the Colorado Adaptive Sports Foundation.