Life after donation: What actually happens to secondhand clothes?
After rummaging through your closet, you might not think twice about tossing clothes from last season, or anything in disrepair into the trash. Donating old clothes doesn’t just give garments a second chance at life, but it is beneficial to the environment in multiple ways. Once you understand how your choices are a part of the cycles within the fashion and textile industry, you’ll never look at your threads the same again.
Fast fashion and landfills
When it comes to the environment, the fashion industry has been lagging in the accountability department for its negative contribution to pollution. Fast fashion’s rock-bottom prices and readily consumable looks belie the behind-the-scenes cost to our planet and natural resources. when trending looks fall out of favor, too often they end up in the rubbish bin instead of Goodwill and thrift stores. After enough hard evidence has shown that landfills are being choked with textiles, clothes, and shoes that could have been upcycled, resold, or donated, many accessible fashion labels are taking responsibility for reducing harm.
The painful truth of the lifecycle for most clothing is that it often ends with a trip to the landfill. Nearly 80% of clothing becomes waste that will take 200 years or more to decompose in garbage dumps, or awaits incineration. Only about 20% of donated clothing manages to be resold, repurposed, or recycled into new fibers or threads. Popular fast fashion companies like ASOS, Zara, and H&M are seeking to change fashion’s current unsustainable state and to encourage wider awareness of environmental issues among customers. The fashion metropolis of New York City has recently launched a campaign to stop fashion from being dumped in the trash. Denizens of the ‘Big Apple’ are encouraged to drop off unwanted clothing at drop sites or sell or repair their clothing.
Donating clothes helps close the loop in the fashion cycle, which typically involves a massive amount of fashion waste globally. Many people have made the decision to stop buying new clothes and instead participate in clothing swaps, actively donating clothing, or reselling old garments. Despite the best efforts of many organizations, many donated clothes run the risk of ending up in a landfill. The Salvation Army and other charities often have a surplus of unsold and unusable donated clothing, so garments end up shipped overseas, sold to textile recycling centers, or left to decompose in trash heaps. It is vital that citizens hold their government and fashion companies liable for the regulation of fashion. This includes enacting laws and taking action to reduce the damage caused to the environment to meet consumer demand for clothing.
After you decide to drop off your clothes for donation, they are inspected to assess their condition, sorted, and either put on the rack for liquidation or rejected. The drive to upcycle or salvage old clothing to create new fibers and textiles is great, as too many clothes continue to clog dumps and waterways. Clothes that are not sold in thrift stores or goodwill after four weeks may sadly end up in the trash. Fast fashion companies have finally decided to step up to the plate after receiving much criticism, regarding their contribution to fashion waste and enabling a disposable society. Reducing the demand for trendy clothing that will only be worn for one season is valuable to fighting waste in the fashion industry. A greater awareness of how much impact the production and distribution of textiles have from the beginning to the end of the fashion cycle is essential.
Ending a clothing crisis
The next time you are ready to go shopping for clothing, whether brand new or a thrift store deal, increase your mindfulness about the impact of your consumption habits. Seek out clothing that is well-made, uses natural fibers, and can stick around your wardrobe for more than a few years. If you have to dispose of clothing, do so responsibly. Choose to drop off your clothes at goodwill, local charities, a collection bin, or swap with friends or family. Taking a stance of personal responsibility regarding the consumption of clothing, shopping habits, and not giving in to impulse buys or splurging on fast fashion hauls is necessary for the health of our society and planet. People are waking up and realizing how much their choices about fashion, clothing, and the allocation of energy and natural resources are shaping our worldview.
When possible, choose to repair your clothing if needed, and support designers who create fashionable garments using eco-friendly and sustainable fibers. Send worn out clothing to recycling centers, which may transform textiles into rags or insulation. Clothing may be chopped up into smaller pieces or broken down using chemical processing so that it can be turned into something viable. Buying clothing made from natural fibers doesn’t just last longer and wear better, but it is easier to break down and repurpose at a recycling center. Many clothes are often made with unnatural fibers or are a blend of more than two fibers, so research and development are needed to find ways to recycle these unique textiles. You can also choose to sell unwanted clothing via resale platforms online, to stop adding to the creation of fashion waste. Remember, about 92 million tons of clothing end up disposed in landfills on an annual basis, and it takes a tremendous toll on the planet and our society.