An old idea recycled

The Times, London, May 2, 2000

FIVE years ago Humana UK was one of Britain's main clothes-recycling charities. It was a big outpost of Tvind's empire, ostensibly channelling thousands of pounds to African aid projects.

Last year the Charity Commission in effect closed Humana because of concerns that the money might not be used for its intended purpose. But Tvind has reappeared, as Planet Aid UK. Its publicity director, Danish-born Birgit Soe, says it has a mission to "see the country filled" with clothes collection boxes. But Planet Aid UK is a commercial venture, not a charity.

In Kettering, Planet Aid boxes have appeared outside post offices and pubs. A council officer says a man with a foreign accent rang on behalf of Planet Aid UK and assured them it was a registered charity. In fact, Planet Aid UK applied to the Charity Commission for charity status but then withdrew the application. The address given, in Goldsmith Avenue, London W3, was used in the past by Humana.

The commission began investigating Humana after newspaper reports in 1993 suggested that only 8 per cent of its income was being used for charity, with the rest spent on "administration".

Humana UK was put in receivership and the commission used new powers to appoint additional, non-Tvind, trustees to the charity's board. But last year, with new and old trustees unable to work together, the commission dismissed all the Scandinavian ones and put the charity under new management; 900 Humana clothes collection boxes around Britain and its seven shops are the responsibility of Textile Recycling for Aid and International Development, which is rebranding them. The money Traid raises is being passed to charities such as Oxfam and Care International.

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