Have you ever wondered where your donated clothes actually end up? Unfortunately, clothing donation is generally not what it seems.
With spring coming up, a lot of us take the change in season as an opportunity to clean out our closets to remove any excess that no longer serves a purpose in our lives. Did you know the average lifetime of an item in a consumer’s closet is about three and a half years before it is removed? One of the most common ways to get rid of these clothes taking up space in our homes is to take them to a donation center or bin in hopes that they find a new home.
Once your clothes are donated to a charity or donation center, they go through your items to sell in their stores for a very low cost. However, the items they receive need to be sellable. Charities or donation organizations will restrict what is collected if it does not meet their standards. On top of this, when garments do not sell, the charities will remove the item to make room for their next batch of donations. Up to 90 percent of what is donated to large organizations like Goodwill and the Salvation Army, end up going to recycling centers.
Before moving on to the next steps in this process, it is important to note that charity centers are still incredibly important in providing low-cost solutions to buying clothing. Just keep in mind that if you are going to be donating clothes, be very selective on what you give!
Clothes that don’t sell at these centers are often shipped to recycling centers where they are restructured as rags for industrial use. You may be wondering why recycled clothes aren’t being made into new clothes. Only about 3 percent of donated textiles are actually recycled and made into new clothing pieces. This is because the infrastructure needed for this process is still very new, and a lot of different fabrics like cotton and wool are very challenging to recycle into a new form that can be sold. In fact, we are seeing more materials like used plastic water bottles created into new clothing items as opposed to recycled old clothing. This is because of the complexity of the fabric composition of the clothes currently being produced. It is not easy to recycle these items with the current technology available.
More investment and innovation in the textile and textile recycling industry is needed so we can purchase clothing with sustainable materials while also responsibly disposing of our old and unusable clothing. Some major fast-fashion retailers are implementing recycling programs into their stores, however, this is often a greenwashing tactic used to keep your dollar in their stores. Not sure what greenwashing is? Read our blog on greenwashing to learn more.
A common practice for Western countries is to ship their unwanted clothing to various destinations around the world. Non-western countries are beginning to push back on this, however. For instance, more than 30 countries in Africa implemented embargos on used clothing imports. Why? Because it negatively impacts their own textile industries, and often our clothes just end up in their landfills. If Western countries are constantly shipping used unwanted textiles to other countries, it can limit local textile jobs in these economies. Not to mention the carbon footprint that shipping these items creates. Fast fashion is often manufactured overseas and when North Americans are done with the items, we send them back to these countries. This is quite daunting to think about!
Around 85 percent of clothing in North America goes directly to the landfill, rather than to a new home. Globally, it is estimated that 92 million tonnes of textile waste is created every year, which ends up in our landfills or is burned into the atmosphere. Not only is fast-fashion manufacturing causing greenhouse gas pollution, the amount of waste we create is also incredibly destructive on top of this. This is why the fashion industry is the second largest polluting industry.
There are some practices you can implement in your own life to help stop clothing from going straight to the landfills.
If you deem a piece to be unwearable, and therefore unsellable, before giving it to a donation center or throwing it in the trash, try to think of another purpose you can give it within your own home. For instance, if you have a t-shirt that is stained or has holes, use it as a hair towel or cut it up to be used as rags. For those who love a little DIY, there are also thousands of repurposing clothing crafts that you can find on YouTube or Pinterest. In fact, you can check out a few ideas in our DIY blog.
The most effective way to avoid clothes ending up in the landfills is to significantly change our consumption habits. The root of the fashion waste problem is society’s obsessive shopping habits. Clothing from fast fashion often doesn’t have a very long life because it is cheaply made and can deteriorate quickly. If we collectively change our personal consumption habits, it can significantly reduce the carbon footprint of fashion.
To learn more about fashion waste and how you can avoid it, check out this article from one of our #HAUSSEPEOPLE on implementing the waste hierarchy to your closet in 2021.
Shopping second-hand, renting, or swapping clothing are great ways to combat this issue while also saving some cash. Or shop from sustainable brands that produce high-quality, slow fashion that will last you a lifetime. We shouldn’t have to choose between our love for fashion and saving the planet. There are so many ways we can ethically pursue this passion.
We at ÀLA.HAUSSE are committed to providing fashion lovers with a multifunctional ecosystem in which they can practice more sustainable consumption habits. Via ÀLA.HAUSSE‘s Multi-functional and Multi-purposeful Fashion Ecosystem- BUY/SELL/RENT/LEND/ (swap BETA 2021) mobile application, INDIVIDUALS & brands ( BETA 2021) are encouraged to REBUY, RESELL, REUSE and UP-CYCLE their personal “Clossets” aka Clothing Assets, along with overstock inventory and samples. Through this consumerism habit shift we indirectly slow down the urgency on fashion’s carbon footprint, aiding sustainability as a whole.
BETA Early Access Application Now Open for CA Fashion Lovers: Apply Now for Second Call Feb/March
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Weber, S. (2015). The afterlife of clothes: how your donated garments make their way around the world. Alternatives Journal, 41(3), 26+.