(Developmental Disabilities Association)

UBC prof hopes students’ idea to retrofit clothing bins will prevent deaths

A 34-year-old man was dead inside a clothing donation bin in West Vancouver last weekend

At least seven Canadians have died after getting stuck in clothing donation bins and the latest fatality has prompted an advocate to call for the ”death traps” to be immediately fixed or removed.

A 34-year-old man was found lodged in a bin in West Vancouver on Sunday, the fifth person in the province to die the same way since 2015. Last November, a 32-year-old man was discovered dead inside a donation box in Cambridge, Ont., and a man in his 20s died in a similar container in Calgary in July 2017.

READ MORE: Body found in West Vancouver clothing donation bin

Jeremy Hunka of Union Gospel Mission in Vancouver said the deaths of five people in British Columbia, four of which are still being investigated by the BC Coroners Service, are unacceptable.

“It’s unthinkable, and it’s time to deal with this problem,” he said Wednesday. “Too many of our guests who would otherwise have a shot at turning their lives around are dying a horrible death inside or hanging out of a bin.”

Hunka said homeless people often try to get items out of bins or use them for shelter in cold weather without realizing the safety risks.

“People have died, and they have inadvertently become death traps,” he said. “It boggles my mind that they’re still in operation.”

He said charitable organizations should come up with other ways to collect donations or stop using the bins.

Prof. Ray Taheri of the school of engineering at UBC’s Okanagan campus said removing an estimated 2,000 bins just in B.C. may cost up to $1 million and there would be storage problems.

He said the death of a woman in a bin at a Vancouver community centre last July prompted him to assign his first-year students a project to redesign the containers or come up with a way to retrofit existing ones, which appeared to be the better option.

One idea involved installing a mechanism that would lock the bins before anything over about nine kilograms was put inside while another required someone to press a button to get items inside a bin, Taheri said, adding that would prevent people leaning into it.

“There’s a sense of urgency involved,” he said of the student competition for a solution.

Various organizations in the Vancouver area use different types of bins and Taheri has looked at all of them.

“Definitely, the designs on all of the bins I’ve seen, they do not accommodate for ‘What if someone tries to get inside?’”

Fourth-year students would complete the winning project and companies that operate the bins would be provided with a kit including a manual allowing them to get parts manufactured so the containers are no longer a problem, Taheri said.

He said he contacted the Developmental Disabilities Association, which operates 400 bins, including one in which a woman died last summer, to try and prevent future problems.

Jerry Dobrovolny, general manager of engineering services for the City of Vancouver, said the bin, which has a self-closing door, was removed by the association at the request of the Vancouver Park Board.

However, similar bins located near city streets were required to be removed by Nov. 30, and most have since been taken away, he said.

Kevin Chan, spokesman for the association, said donated clothes are sold to a popular thrift store, with proceeds going toward helping about 1,600 people in the Vancouver area.

The association also picks up clothing at homes but Chan said the profits are not as high using that method.

Camille Bains, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

The “King of Sailplane Aerobatics” coming to SkyFest in Quesnel

Manfred Radius has been flying since 1961, logging more than 2,000 hours in various sailplanes

Meet Quesnel’s Firesmart representative

Amanda Vibert is coordinating Firesmart workshops around town and assessing individual homes

Quesnel Crossfire season ends with a fizzle

The team was suspended from Prince George Senior Lacrosse league after forfeiting second game

Forestry Ink: The Chinchaga firestorm

Jim Hilton returns with his regular column

Wells’ Sunset Theatre unveils summer season lineup

The lineup features award-winning touring productions, play readings, concerts, and world premieres

10 facts about Father’s Day

Did you know that the special day for dads was first celebrated in 1910?

Bombers down B.C. Lions 33-23 in season opener

Former Lion Andrew Harris leads Winnipeg with 148 rushing yards

Northern B.C. family remembers murdered Indigenous woman with memorial walk

Still no closure for Ramona Wilson’s family 25 years later

Give Hope Wings fundraiser launches Saturday from Pitt Meadows

Flying marathon will benefit low income Canadians needing flights for medical treatment

B.C. university to offer mentorship program for former youth in care

Students using the provincial tuition waiver program will soon be able to form a community at KPU

Cyclists competing in one of the toughest bike races on the planet pass through Fernie

Divide riders looking strong as they finish first leg of 4160 km race

You might not know these B.C. records are public

Hired a lawyer to file a civil claim? Those are published online

B.C. bus driver loses case to get job back after texting while driving full bus

An arbitator ruled that Tim Wesman’s phone usage was a “a reckless disregard for public safety”

B.C. Interior First Nation family ‘heartbroken’ over loss of young mom

RCMP have released no new information since the June 8, 2019 homicide

Most Read