More than 1,000 people have signed a petition from the disability charity Scope calling on Bromley Council to reverse its decision to exclude charities from clothing recycling banks in the south-east London borough.
The charity has 34 clothing banks at sites in the borough, but said the council had struck a deal with the waste-management company Veolia to take the sites over from 31 May and give the council a cut when the contents were sold.
Scope said the move would cost the organisation £360,000 a year. The majority of the clothes were sold in its shops, it said.
According to Scope, the plans were similar to those implemented by Northumberland and Hertfordshire county councils last year. Other London councils were looking at a London-wide textile recycling scheme, it said.
Scope said the fact that more than 1,000 people had signed its petition against the plans showed there was public support for the charity.
Richard Hawkes, chief executive of Scope, said: "We understand that all councils have to make tough spending decisions after cuts to their budgets. But plans to sell the clothing bank sites off to private companies will cost charities like Scope millions in donations."Christina Osoro Cangas, senior research and policy analyst at the Charity Retail Association, said councils were doing this more frequently.
"More and more people are buying from charity shops and they are struggling to keep up with demand," she said. "This is going to have an impact on the amount of stock and therefore the income they can raise in shops."
Osoro Cangas said the CRA had been in touch with local authorities to try to convince them not to exclude charities from running clothing banks, but so far those with plans to do so had not been convinced to stop.
Mike Lucas, retail director at the British Heart Foundation, which has had similar experiences with councils, said the existing situation with clothing banks was very disappointing.
"The fact that these councils aren’t being transparent about what happens to people’s donations is also concerning," he said. "It is vital for commercial companies to act responsibly – particularly around where donations are going and what is happening with the money raised from these. Householders have the right to know so they can make an informed choice about where and how to donate."
A Bromley Council spokesman declined to confirm how much the council would make from the deal, but said the proceeds from recycling any materials, including clothes, would ultimately make their way back to the local authority.
He said Veolia would also be starting a door-to-door clothing recycling service for the council.
Councillor Colin Smith, executive councillor for environment at Bromley Council, said in a statement that one reason the council was making the change was to reduce its £2.3m annual liability in Landfill Tax "during a period of extremely difficult financial circumstances for local councils".
He said Scope could choose to relocate its banks to private land. "The new collection service will serve to support many charities as well as providing local employment because the company that recycles the collected textiles makes significant donations to a number of charities – in excess of £2m a year," he said.