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What's the deal with those green bins?

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One of USAgain's green bins, on the south side of Perham. Connie Vandermay/FOCUS2 / 2

As USAgain's clothing collection bins find their way to parking lots in the Perham and New York Mills area, some people are wondering who benefits from the donated clothes.

Just last week, a woman stopped into the Focus office asking about this very issue. We'd heard other people talk about it before, too. The bins were also the subject of a recent article in the Fargo Forum.

It seems there is some confusion out there regarding these bins. There was even some speculation in town that they may have ties to the mafia.

So we looked into it from a local angle, and here's what we found out:

USAgain is a for-profit company based in Chicago that sells donated items to areas of the world where demand is highest. According to their website, they have bins in 17 states.

Local businesses that house the bins get a small perk - USAgain offers stipends to hosting businesses of roughly $20 per ton of clothes collected.

The bins do say on them - albeit in small letters - that USAgain is 'for-profit.'

The company helps keep millions of items out of landfills and puts clothes on the backs of some of the world's poorest people.

From what we can tell, the company seems to be doing a lot of good. They also happen to be making money at it.

However, for those who want to donate clothes specifically to people who live in the east Otter Tail County area, USAgain's green bins are not the way to do it.

Local non-profits, like the Re-Use-It Thrift Store or Thrifty Alternatives, also accept clothing donations - and those donations stay local, helping local people and the local economy.

Fortunately, there's been enough goodwill to go around, at least so far. Thrifty Alternatives has not seen a decline in donations since USAgain's bins came to the area, and Re-Use-It donations have been steady since it's opening in the spring of 2011.

Thrifty Alternatives accepts donations from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., Monday thru Friday. And Re-Use-It excepts donations on Tuesday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Both locations will accept donations at different times by appointment.

The USAgain bins are so popular largely because they offer 24/7 availability. It's this convenience factor that made Dean's Country Market owner Dean Simpson put the USAgain bins in his parking lots in Perham and NY Mills.

In an interview last week, Simpson said the convenience of it all is his only motive. He would gladly switch over to bins offered by local thrift stores, if they offered such a thing.

The USAgain bins are also found at Mills Lanes and at Pamida and Main Street Express in Perham.

But the 'big question' still remains - is the mafia behind the green bins?

In the words of every mafia man in every mafia movie ever, "Forget about it."

Or, in our own words, we don't think so.

Editorials reflect the opinions of the East Otter Tail Focus editorial staff.