Dallas regulation planned for unattended donation drop boxes

Dallas has no regulation of donation drop boxes.

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Big metal drop boxes for donated items often become a trashy nuisance in Dallas because the city has no regulations for them.

After years of talking about it, there’s a plan for new rules by the end of this year to clean up the mess.

At one location on Wheatland Road near I-20, there are 13 unattended collection boxes. Some appear to be for charities, others appear to be for profit recycling businesses.

There is trash all around the boxes, including mattresses that would never fit in any of the units.

At another location near I-20, several collection boxes have no trash outside, but neighbor Deirdre Nixon said that is rare.

“Normally they are overfilled from the stuff that is there so it is kind of not pleasing to the community,” she said. “People use it more for a dumping site instead of what it’s supposed to be for. It’s supposed to be so their clothing can still go to somewhere else.

At a collection box on East Northwest Highway, donor Ansen Dorn said he sometimes finds it difficult to fit his items into the box.

“Because it’s full on the inside. So I just leave my bag tied up real good and leave it right there,” Dorn said.

On Monday, the Dallas City Council Quality of Life Committee heard a briefing on a plan to finally regulate these boxes.

“I really do not like them,” Councilmember Paula Blackmon said. “I’ve got a couple of them in my neighborhood and on a day like today when it rains or the wind blows, it’s thrown all over.”

Councilman Chad West said several boxes are close to his home in Oak Cliff.

“When you live close to them you see them every day and it becomes a nuisance and a blight. Those neighbors who live close to them are the ones I constantly hear from. And this has been going on close to 15 years since I’ve lived in the district,” West said.

The new Dallas plan for unattended drop box regulations is a $248 annual fee for each box, just two allowed in a commercial location, at least 1,100 feet separation between locations with written property owner permission.

Registration stickers would be required on each box with information to allow city inspectors to reach owners for clean-up enforcement.

“I’m definitely on board with this. I think it’s necessary. I think the key to growth and development is safe and clean,” Councilman Casey Thomas said.

The city’s plan does not include removing and impounding boxes that do not comply with the new rules.

Some city council members say it should.

“I'd like for us to explore that. I think there is appetite for us to do what we can to get these gone in any way that we can legally,” Committee Chairman Adam Bazaldua said.

City staff said impounding boxes was not recommended because the city lacks a location to keep them.

Councilman Paul Ridley said the city should not take on that task.

“I think my preference would be to put that on the property owner as a matter of maintenance of their property,” Ridley said.

One problem with the current lack of regulation is that property owners can also be victims of unwanted boxes with no way to reach the box owner to clean up the mess left beside it.

“When you see that, people are less likely to come to that area because it's dirty and filthy,” Nixon said.

An assistant city attorney said past court opinions have blocked banning the drop boxes and he said restricting them to nonprofit organizations would also be legally challenging.  

But regulation is acceptable and council members strongly supported moving forward.

“I’m definitely wanting to see us clean our communities up, and stop allowing folks to come in there and profit,” Councilmember Carolyn King Arnold said.

Members said they want the issue sent to the full city council for action after the July city council recess by August or September with the possibility of increasing the distance between box locations from what was recommended Monday.

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