Committee approves new by-law for outdoor clothing donation boxes

A graphic with Ottawa City Hall is in the background. A vertical grey stripe and a horizontal red stripe are in the foreground with "Emergency Preparedness and Protective Services Committee update" in the centre.

On Sept. 21, the City’s Emergency Preparedness and Protective Services Committee approved a new by-law for outdoor clothing donation boxes(link is external) in Ottawa, including a mandatory permit system and regulations, to come into effect January 31, 2024. 

Clothing donation box owners would need to obtain a City permit and follow regulations around box placement, signage, safety and maintenance. The proposed annual permit fee is $500, plus $150 per box operated by the permit holder. 

Boxes would need to display the owner’s name and contact information. Charities and not-for-profits would need to display their valid registration numbers while non-charitable organizations would need to indicate clearly that they are not a registered charity. Box owners would be responsible for ensuring their boxes are regularly emptied and maintained, are safely designed and are placed in safe and secure, well-lit areas.  

Donation boxes at City facilities will also be included under the new permit system; however, only registered charities could place boxes at City facilities, and only at specific, pre-approved locations. 

The by-law would allow the City to prevent and address common concerns about outdoor clothing donations boxes. These include donated items left outside of boxes, waste and debris left at box locations, incorrect or misleading information on boxes, boxes placed on private property without consent, potential safety risks, theft, vandalism and illegal dumping. It would also help inform future initiatives to divert more textiles from the City’s landfill, by collecting donation data from permit holders annually. 

The Committee also received an overview of Ottawa Fire Services(link is external)’ activities in 2021 and 2022. Despite demand increasing significantly, surpassing pre-pandemic numbers, the service met standards for response times in all categories, in both years. In 2021, the service responded to 23,875 incidents, up six per cent from the previous year. In 2022 that response went up again to 28,633 incidents, an increase of 18 per cent from 2021. False fire alarms increased significantly and, in 2022, firefighters responded to 10,478 false alarms, up 17 per cent from the previous year. Medical-related incidents increased more than 30 per cent during the same period. 

In 2022 Fire Services launched a new recruitment and hiring strategy aimed at increasing the number of qualified individuals from diverse backgrounds. Women made up 17 per cent of successful applicants and new recruits that year. The service responded to several large-scale incidents in 2022, such as the Merivale Road explosion, the illegal occupation of the City’s downtown core and the derecho storm. Beyond emergency response, the service continues to focus on fire prevention, code enforcement and education outreach to reduce the number of fires and raise awareness about fire safety. 

These reports will rise to Council on Wednesday, September 27. 

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