Where do your donated clothes go?

When you drop off a bag of clothes for donation, have you ever wonder where does it all go?

With summer is just around the corner, it is also a time for me to clean out my closet. I believe for most millennials go like this: Bring all the outdated clothing or the clothes I won’t wear again to the local charity shop like Cancer Research UK, Salvation Army or British Heart Foundation if you live in the U.K, or bring it to the community used clothes recycling bank that near you if living in Hong Kong.  

When you drop off a bag of clothes for donation, have you ever wonder where does it all go? Isn’t it being sent to help someone who needs it? How they would deal with the single sock/glove you put in the bag?  

Recycling Bank collection point in Hong Kong

1)Where do our donated clothes go? 

Handling all those donated clothes, it actually involved a lot of complicated layers and process. After being sorted and graded, around 20% of it (or less) is being sold in local charity stores or thrift, the proceeds from the sales would be used in the charity projects. The remaining 80% would either be sold to developing countries, such as Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda or East African countries as a donation, resale or dumped into the landfill; or goes into manufacturing. Some textile clothing will be used in the ragging process, and others will be shredded and used for insulation, fill over furniture, etc. 

Therefore, the truth is, not every single cloth you donated is able to go to someone. Even some clothes are lucky enough being promoted in the charity stores, they’re often not fit for anyone else. In some cases, charities are even forced to spend money sorting and disposing of this material, of which an estimated 25%1 goes directly to landfill.  

2) Why should we care?  

Whenever you are tidying up your closets, have you ever think about how come it get so full? One of the reason is the change of fashion, it has been changed from functionality to trends. Also, the number of seasons and the shopping holidays have boost customers’ shopping habits and creates an addiction to consume. According to a research, people in North America only wore their newest item of clothing for 7 times, in comparison, people in European countries would wear 40 times; there are up to 80 billion pieces of clothing bought worldwide per year (Global New, 2018). 

Not only the number of clothing produced brings stress to the environment, which includes the microfibers and dyes polluting the ocean; but also, textile production is extremely carbon-intensive. Studies show the greenhouse gas produced by clothing production is more than the combination of shipping and aviation produce. 

3) Less is more  

Minimalism has been an increasingly popular trend in our generation nowadays, it is a movement that now extends to many aspects of life, including lifestyle and fashion.  

As a consumer, we should try to purchase fewer clothing items; if you do not feel like you are going to wear the items more than 40 times, you should step away. 

Also, before you are throwing your clothing items to the bin directly, please ask yourself if you can donate it. An item which is not sellable can be shredded or given to the skilled sorters and graders, who will know how to deal with your textile, rather than goes straight into the landfill (Amy, 2018). 

Moreover, green or sustainable fashion has become a new trend as more people are aware of sustainability nowadays. Green clothing uses eco-friendly fabrics and responsible production techniques, it takes into account environmental impact, consumer health, and the working conditions of the people making the clothes. Buying green clothing is not only better for our Earth, people, and animals, but also they last longer than the fast-fashion clothing items. So whenever you are buying clothes, remember to buy green; and more importantly, please buy less (Blythe, 2018). 

The fact is, the fashion industry accounts for about 10% of global carbon emissions, and nearly 20% of wastewater. As a global citizen, we have the responsibility to save the planet. As consumers the changes we all make in our behaviour not only add up, but can drive change in the industry,too! 

We can all make a difference by being more thoughtful as consumers. Rethink before you buy! 

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