Charities are being forced to remove all clothing bins from Wollongong City Council lands - excluding five designated sites - in a move that could spell disaster for the organisations.
Clothing bins are fast becoming a rarity following a decision by Wollongong City Council to ban and remove dozens of clothing bins from council land, deeming all but five sites "not suitable".
Mission Australia clothing bin service manager Nicole Roberts said the decision had had a devastating effect on the charity, slashing clothing bin numbers by almost half.
"We started 20 years ago and up to 10 years ago we had more than 100 bins out there in the community," she said.
"Now we only have 56, because we're having to remove those bins from council areas, and some of them we've had out there for 15 years or more.
"It makes it tough for us because our bins are really our lifeblood - without them our shops won't survive."
The change of policy came after the council, at a meeting in December, 2007, resolved to allocate five sites for the placement of bins on council land at The Circle, Woonona; Robert Ziems Park, Corrimal; Figtree Park, Figtree; Guest Park, Balgownie; Acacia street, Windang.
Since then there has been no co-ordinated action by the council to force the mass removal of bins, but a council spokesperson has confirmed all bins on council land - but not on one of the allocated sites - will be removed.
The council has cited cleanliness and safety as the reason for the change in policy, though Ms Roberts said council acknowledged Mission Australia serviced its bins well.
"As people leave their household goods outside these bins, they can obstruct the footpath and also provide safety issues, such as broken glass being left in the area," a council spokesperson said.
"As there are risks involved council has an obligation to ensure that the footpath is not obstructed by the goods left outside the bin.
"Council has worked with the associations and so far two clothing bins have been removed from sites that were not suitable.
"Council has also impounded two clothing bins that were not removed after a request from council."
When the Mercury contacted The Smith Family and Lifeline South Coast, neither were immediately aware of the change in policy or the fact that several of their bins would need to be removed.
Mission Australia, which needs at least 10 bins to service each of its nine Big Heart stores, will be forced to remove another 19 bins as a result of the decision, leaving them with a total 37 bins.
The charity is now hoping private land holders and businesses will come to their rescue by hosting bins on their own properties.
"What we are looking for are any locations that have access to the public, that also have the ability for us to get our truck in to empty the bin . . . like service stations, corner shops with car parks or places with large car park facilities like Bunnings or Woolworths," Mission Australia NSW operations manager Bill Dibley said.
"That would be the best Christmas present anyone from community could give to Mission Australia, to enable and assist us to keep doing the work we do with those most in need."