Charities lose hundreds of thousands of pounds because clothes banks keep being stolen

Charities have lost hundred of thousands of pounds worth of donations because people keep stealing clothes banks from car parks, an investigation has found.

According to the Textile Recycling Association, up to 20 charity clothes banks a week have gone missing in the last year from car parks across England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Some have been rebranded with a different charity logo and placed at sites without permission, the TRA says.

The Charity Commission has now launched an investigation after it was estimated the stolen clothes banks could have cost charities nearly £370,000.

There are around 15,000 clothing banks throughout the whole of the UK, often placed at supermarket car parks and recycling sites.

Some are run by charities such as The Salvation Army, Oxfam and the British Heart Foundation themselves, but others are operated by private recycling companies who give a donation to charities – on average £250 for every tonne of clothes collected.

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Around £75,000,000 was given to charities and local authorities last year.

The TRA, which represents the sector, says charities receive on average £70 worth of donations a week from each bank and it can take between six to eight weeks to replace them.

In some cases, the recycling companies are not replacing the banks at all, so the charities will lose out permanently.

Recycling Solutions North West, based in Heywood in Greater Manchester, donates between £5,000 and £6,000 a month to a charity which helps critically ill babies and children.

Last month, 12 of its clothing banks were taken from sites across Greater Manchester.

One of the directors, James Cook, is passionate about the charity after his son Dexter, who had an undiagnosed heart condition, died when he was only 13 months old.

He told the : ‘I just can’t understand why any individual would go out and take the clothing banks.

‘The families, they’re relying on that charity to carry out a service for their child. It is a lifesaving service.

‘I do like to see the target go up every month, I like to see the money climb and I’m going to see it drop next month and that will hurt.’

The TRA say the cost of replacing a bank can be up to £1,500 and the total bill to its members could be as much as £1million

President Ian Woods said the loss of the banks was ‘depriving members of the public from a service intended for them to recycle textiles and, more importantly, depriving charities and local authorities nationwide of revenue streams which are vitally important for the services they deliver’.

He added: ‘We are appealing to the police and other government agencies to join us in the campaign to clamp down on all forms of illegal activity connected to textile recycling.’

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