Dr. Ray Taheri - Photo by Andrea Marie Tan

In December 2018, many charities across Vancouver have pulled donation bins off the streets following numerous deaths related to individuals climbing inside and getting trapped. This has cost charitable organizations such as the Salvation Army, Diabetes Canada, Big Brothers and Sisters, Goodwill and more thousands of dollars.

To provide a solution to this problem, UBCO School of Engineering instructor Ray Taheri has tasked his students to modify these bins to be safer as a part of his first-year design course.

Taheri states that “most engineers know that modifying an existing design is often more difficult than starting from scratch. It was a perfect challenge for my students.”

These students came up with many solutions as to how to alleviate the hazardous nature of these bins, including looking at where the bins should be located, automatic self-locking features, and sensors that alert the organization that they are almost full.

Photo from abbynews.com

In particular, the last solution listed could significantly prevent future deaths. Taheri expresses that “if the bins are full, people take items outside the bins and then perhaps climb in to search for more items. If the bins had a sensor, alerting the organization that they were almost full, this would prevent piles of donations left outside.”

Taheri is confident that these bins are much safer than they were in the past.

Slav Gudelj, the general manager of clothing donation operations for Big Brothers, commends the engineers for all their hard work. Gudelj was on campus last month to finalize plans for 180 newly retrofitted bins to hit the streets.

Taheri acknowledges the hundreds of hours of volunteer work that staff and students have put into this project: “I can’t stress enough how proud I am of my students and my colleagues in the School of Engineering.”

We can expect to see the newly modified donation bins on the streets in the coming months.