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Court says St. Johns can’t enforce collection bin ban

Detroit News staff and wire reports

St. Johns — A federal appeals court has upheld a judge’s ruling that bars this central Michigan city from enforcing a ban on charity collection bins.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati on Monday upheld a Grand Rapids federal judge’s 2014 decision to issue a temporary restraining order against St. Johns.

The group Planet Aid sued the city, saying the ban on collection bins for used clothing and other items violated its First Amendment right to free speech.

St. Johns, north of Lansing, passed the ban last year. Planet Aid had two bins in St. Johns that were removed as nuisances.

At the same time, city officials allowed Lions Club Recycling Center to keep their bins by citing an ordinance that prohibits entities from having unrelated activity on their property.

Planet Aid, based in Elkridge, Maryland, convinced a federal judge to impose a temporary restraining order against the St. Johns ban. Two weeks earlier, it convinced a different judge to enter a similar order against a ban in Ypsilanti Township.

Leading up to the ban in Ypsilanti Township, officials said they had received complaints about the cleanliness, orderliness and placement of the bins.

Planet Aid helps people in developing countries. Reselling and recycling of clothes has become a $1 billion a year industry, charities say. The clothing is sold in other countries or used by industry as material for things such as furniture filling.

To try to satisfy the demand, a number of charities have place thousands of metal donation boxes on commercial parking lots throughout Michigan. Planet Aid alone had nearly 1,000 in the state last year, said its Michigan operations manager, Brian Hinterleiter.

One World Center, a Massachusetts-based nonprofit, had about 650 bins in Michigan in 2014.