NAPLES — In a smattering of Collier County parking lots, white steel bins with red lettering beckon for used clothing and shoes.
The drop boxes, about 6 feet tall, belong to a Daytona-based company, and nonprofit organizations are concerned well-meaning individuals will give used items without reading the fine print: the business resells the contributions for a profit.
"We've had some problems with it. We don't feel like people in the community understand that they are for-profit boxes," said Carolyn Johnson, spokeswoman for Goodwill Industries of Southwest Florida.
Goodwill has used clothing boxes in Collier, as does the privately held Charter Recycling Corp.
One of the company's owners countered that his business doesn't dupe anyone.
A sign implores "Don't throw the world away/Recycle!" but smaller lettering states the goods aren't headed to a charity. The company's name is on the box, as well as a phone number to its warehouse.
"(We're) not claiming to be a charity. We are for profit, we make money," said Jacob "Jack" Yazejian, and that's why the term "donation" is mindfully missing from the box.
"When we take the goods, we really do recycle them," Yazejian said, adding that his business employs 15 people in Florida and contributes to the state economy.
But charities allege that companies can be deceptive in trying to get contributions into the bins.
"The blue of Goodwill, the red of Salvation Army — you find that those are the colors that are generally copied," said Meg Geltner, general manager of the Salvation Army of Southwest Florida.
Goodwill Industries of Southwest Florida, which has 12 donation boxes around Collier County, has collected 45,000 pounds of goods from its bins this year, which it resells in stores. There is worry that competition from for-profits will nip into revenue.
Charities argue that profits from donations could benefit the local nonprofit sector and fund important programs like Salvation Army's drug rehab facility in Lee County, instead of heading into private hands.
Textile recycling involves everything from reselling used clothes and shoes in retails stores, to baling them into half-ton packages, loading up cargo ships, and reselling them wholesale overseas. It can also mean scrapping the materials into industrial cleaning wipes or construction material.
Salvation Army, which doesn't maintain unmanned boxes but has considered them, also sells used clothing in bulk to vendors, who in turn sell them overseas, often shipping out of the Tampa and Miami ports.
But that's a last resort because the profit margin is so small, said Meg Geltner, general manager at The Salvation Army of Southwest Florida.
Items circulate through three thrift stores for at least a month before they are baled up and sold off for 25 to 30 cents a pound, according to Geltner.
Geltner said selling in bulk is not desirable for a charity trying to get the most out of donations.
"That is the least profit we make from it," she said.
But as with building materials, which can be sold for scrap, any revenue that can come in helps the bottom line for both charities and companies.
"Even a single shoe, we can get it to the right party (by) grinding the shoe (and) mixing it with asphalt, like hamburger helper for asphalt," Yazejian explained.
The Daily News found four Charter Recycling bins in Collier. Yazejian said he pays rent to shopping plaza property managers to station the boxes in parking lots around the state.
Collier County government's Growth Management office, which handles permitting, said determining whether permits were needed for boxes depended on the size of the bins.
A fifth box in an East Naples shopping plaza had no identifying information or contact number and uses the word "donation" but has no charity's name listed.
Nonprofit officials and business owners agree that unscrupulous box-owners jeopardize both charities and legitimate companies.
"Then it's up to the donors," Geltner said. "There's donor responsibility as well."