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Struggling Aussies warned against alarming 'bin surfing' trend after shock death

The warning comes after a man was found dead inside a bin in NSW with police believing he'd been bin surfing.

With the cost of living crisis continuing to push some to their limits, Aussies are being warned about the dangers of "bin surfing" after a man's body was found "wedged in a clothing bin" in a Westfield shopping centre car park last week.

The alarming practice, similar to dumpster diving, involves people climbing head first into charity bins to rummage through donated items. NSW Police was alerted to a tragedy at Tuggurah on the NSW Central Coast after "a passer-by saw legs hanging out of the chute" resulting in loss of life.

According to reports, police believe the man "was bin surfing, fell and broke his neck" leaving his lifeless body hanging out of a bin operated by textile collection company SCRgroup, which has 1,700 clothing hubs across Australia. Alarmingly, the same bins also claimed the life of a 43-year-old woman Mikki O’Shea in 2021 who was found dead by a member of the public after becoming trapped.

Police car and charity bins at Westfield Tuggerah car park.
Police were called to Westfield Tuggerah last Tuesday morning after a passer-by saw a man's legs hanging out of the charity bin chute. Source: ABC Central Coast/Mary-Louise Vince

"These charity donation bins are a one-way mechanism for people to place items. They have been purposely designed so people are not able to remove items," a Queensland Police spokesperson said in a statement to Yahoo News Australia.

"Attempting to access charity bins can be extremely dangerous, posing severe risks of injury or worse. Individuals may find themselves trapped or in hazardous situations."

Apparent rise in bin surfing highlights 'societal problem'

SCRgroup Executive Chair Joe Carbone told Yahoo the company is "truly saddened to hear that a person has died this week by climbing into one of our clothing hubs in NSW" and noted there's a "serious societal problem" that could be behind the rise in people bin surfing.

Last month, another man was seen dangling from a Make-a-Wish Foundation charity bin in a shopping centre in the affluent suburb of Bondi in Sydney. It's understood he made it out unharmed.

Left: Charity bins in car park. Right: man's legs hanging out of charity bin.
More people have resorted to bin surfing, including a Sydney man who was spotted climbing into the Make a Wish charity bin at Bondi. Source: Facebook

"Our team speaks with people at our clothing hubs about their life situation regularly and one thing we know for sure is that no one is engaging in bin diving for fun or for the thrill of it," he said. "There are many people around Australia in need of necessities like clothing."

"We continuously evolve our clothing hub infrastructure to ensure they are as safe as possible," he continued, but said "it's difficult to guarantee anything to be 100% failsafe, particularly where there are no industry regulations, standards, or guidelines for clothing hubs in Australia".

Struggling Aussies discouraged from raiding charity bins

Carbone noted an increase of people in Australia "living below the poverty line, with many experiencing homelessness" but agreed the act of climbing into bins is not the solution.

"We take community safety very seriously. It is critical that people adhere to the warning and danger signage that is on these clothing hubs around not entering them for any reason," he said.

Instead, the textiles boss said "there are many charities, community and social support agencies that can provide affordable, even free, clothing to people in need and we partner with many of these organisations to provide second-hand clothing that is of good quality."

'Unlawfully removing' items from bins is a crime, police say

Queensland Police told Yahoo News Australia authorities "aren't aware of an increase of occurrences around this issue" across the state. However, they "strongly discourage anyone from trying to enter these bins for unlawful purposes or to retrieve items".

"Unlawfully removing items from charity bins is theft, and police are committed to enforcing the law to ensure these donations reach their intended recipients," they said. Other state departments could not comment.

The textiles boss said the company's current clothing hubs have been "independently researched and manufactured with safety in mind" and were also assessed and tested both locally and internationally.

"We believed they were best in class when it comes to deterring bin diving and we will be investigating how this happened," he said.

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