CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The red collection bins are hard to miss, they are scattered all over Charlotte and North Carolina. The bins belong to Better World Recycling, which takes your donated clothing and shoes and sells them in third world countries.
At the time of our first story last February, Better World was a “for profit” company and their spokesperson, Shawn Lange, told NBC Charlotte “all of our bins are straightforward and say we are a recycling company.”
But the state of North Carolina sees it differently and is investigating and cracking down on Better World, saying they are in violation of the state’s charitable solicitation act which clearly says bins from a for profit company must be labeled to say “this is not a charity.”
N.C.G.S. §13IF-10 states as follows:
"Any person who is not a charitable organization or sponsor and who places or maintains a collection receptacle in public view for the purpose of collecting donated clothing, household items, and other items for resale shall display on all sides of each collection receptacle a permanent sign or label with the phone number or electronic mail address of a contactor the person and the following statement: "This is not a charity. Donations made here support a for-profit business and are not tax deductible." The sign or label shall be placed on all sides of the collection receptacle with the required information printed in letters that are no less than three inches in height and no less than one-half inch in width and in a color that contrasts with the color of the collection receptacle so that the sign or label is clearly visible ... "
Shawn Lange of Better World told NBC Charlotte in February “…we’re in the process of making it more clear as to what type of organization we are to avoid anyone being misled.”
Bill McGinty: “Are you doing that because you want to do it?”
Shawn: “Ah, yeah.”
After putting Better World on notice in February, and even giving them an extension, the Charitable Solicitation Licensing Division of the North Carolina Department of the Secretary of State followed up and rechecked bins in March, but didn’t see labels. The state rechecked bins again in April, and again, no labels.
The state fined Better World Recycling in Charlotte $21,000 and demanded a complete list of bin locations in North Carolina. Better World told the state what they told NBC Charlotte, that they “intended to get their collection receptacles in compliance,” but when the state checked the bins again, the CSL reported “they failed to display the mandatory language”.
NBC Charlotte went back to the Better World Offices in Charlotte to ask them why they haven’t complied with the CSL order. Management there wouldn’t talk to us on camera but said again they are working on it and have even labeled some bins here in Charlotte. When NBC Charlotte asked the locations of those bins in Charlotte, they wouldn’t tell me where they are.
The Secretary of State’s Office also reports that Better World made “misrepresentations” on its website in February saying they had “strategic partnerships” with charities like Habitat for Humanity and the Salvation Army when they in fact did not. Those charities also confirmed for NBC Charlotte that they never had any type of partnership or relationship with Better World Recycling. Better World has since taken those logos off of its website, http://www.betterworldrecycling.org/.
Better World Recycling has since filed documentation with the state to change the corporate status of their business from “for profit” to “non-profit”.
The state told NBC Charlotte it has not yet licensed them as a charity. The state says Better World Recycling is appealing the fines. The Secretary of State’s Office also told NBC Charlotte that other companies likewise have donation bins in the Charlotte area and they are being looked at, too, but so far, no official investigations have been opened into those organizations.
The following is a link for you to check charities in North Carolina: http://www.secretary.state.nc.us/csl/
You can read the entire CSL State order on Better World Recycling.