As someone who tries to do better for our planet, I donate a majority of my clothes to thrift stores in my area. It is a practice that I have been doing for years, which I presumed was the best way to get rid of older clothes that I no longer had a use for in my closet. After doing some extensive research, I realized that those trash bags I give to Goodwill might not end up on the rack.
According to the Saturday Evening Post, 90 percent of clothing donations go to textile recyclers, meaning that the sweater you once loved doesn’t stay at your local charity for long.
There are a few paths your sweater can take once it hits the Goodwill donation bin:
10 percent is put on the rack to be purchased by someone new.
20 percent is transformed into low-fiber material such as carpet padding or home insulation. These fabrics can be easily be blended into new products for commercial use.
30 percent of donated clothes are sold to companies to be cut up into industrial rags. Textile recyclers purchase old clothing for a profit. Still, sweaters into rags only account for a portion of the entire journey.
45-50 percent goes to low-income communities in Asia and Africa to be resold at a lower price than local clothing merchants. Markets in these places are losing value from cheap overseas crop tops. Countries that take clothing from the United States are feeling the impact as domestic goods lose value.
5 percent ends up in the waste that once was donated to charity organizations; however, such a number doesn’t comprehend the vast landfills consumed by clothes.
In the United States alone, Reader’s Digest explains, “While you may donate your old clothing to charity, the truth is, even then, a whopping 84 percent of our clothing ends up in landfills and incinerators, according to the EPA. The Council for Textile Recycling reports that the average U.S. citizen throws away between 70 and 81 pounds of clothing and other textiles annually.”
81 pounds of clothing a year are thrown away by a single person in the United States alone.
You may be wondering: Katie, what do I do now?
To that, there are a few solutions:
First, Stop. Buying. Clothes. Thrifted or new, the only way to cut down on waste to stop getting a new shirt each week on your trip to the Salvation Army or the mall. By purchasing fewer items, you can cut down on your carbon footprint and stop the endless trash cycle.
Second, learn how to mend your clothes. One of the biggest reasons people get rid of clothes is because of the cheap fabric in today’s fashion industry. By learning how to use a needle and thread, you can keep your clothes for longer. Understand how putting a new button on a pair of pants can help the environment.
Last, start swapping with friends! Personally, this is my favorite option. Have a clothes swap with a few of your besties to mix and match some new items. You are able to have the feeling of a new jacket without harming the planet. It can make for a great photo op too!