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Donating Your Old Clothing May Not Be As Simple As You Think

The process of donating does not stop at dropping the bags off in boxes — it stops when they end up in landfills around the world.

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Donating Your Old Clothing May Not Be As Simple As You Think

We hear about donating clothing all the time, especially around the holidays. We are trained to believe that there are individuals in the world that are struggling with a shortage of clothing, also known as the "Clothing Deficit Myth." This idea, however, is exactly that: a myth. Have you ever considered what happens with the donated clothing that does not sell or is rejected?

Picture this: It is the holiday season. Advertisements come on the television with the sole purpose to pull on heartstrings. The phone rings more than usual as local organizations make calls. There are decorated boxes outside of every grocery store and doctor's office. All of these are coordinated together for one purpose — to donate clothing.

Growing up, my family would band together to clean out our closets based on what we did not wear anymore to what did not fit anymore, which would eventually be brought to our local Goodwill. Little do many people know, some bags of donated clothing do not even make it to the store floor, leaving them unchecked and ready to be exported.

That is right! After taking all of that time rummaging through your closet and organizing what needed to be brought to the donation center, there is a high chance your garments will not even be considered. While there is not much we can do to control whether our bags will be looked at, we can safeguard that it will at least be picked up from the boxes sitting outdoors in a few ways. The donation centers will not take clothing items that have stains, rips or are wet.

For that reason, make sure your bag is fully placed within the box and safe from weather and damage. If you own and are willing to split with some of your nicer garments, check out your local resale shops! Not only will they be given the consideration they deserve, but you may also get paid for them! Granted, they may not always accept the garments under certain guidelines and you will not receive the original amount you paid for. But hey, it is worth a shot!

So, what happens to the clothing that gets rejected or is not sold?

Some donation centers simply bundle up garments and sell them that way to foreign importers, while some find use in most pieces by making rags. Many of these foreign importers are from least developed countries such as Haiti. There, they have markets stacked with the donated clothing sold for even less. This is where the "Clothing Deficit Myth" is proven as a myth — people in need are not unclothed. In fact, they have an abundance of clothing within their landfills.

Then, what happens to the clothing that is not used in the least developed countries?

This brings me to my final point: donating clothing is not "recycling." The majority of the donated clothing is not disassembled and re-purposed into another product. In fact, it is far from sustainable. All of the clothing that is not used in the final stage of donating is thrown into a landfill, which stays there ranging from months to forever.

There has been an increase in for-profit brands such as Love Your Melon, Poshmark, and ThredUp, which are leading in the promotion of sustainable practices in the fashion industry. Adidas is currently working on a tennis shoe that is completely biodegradable, the first of its kind! Give these brands a quick check, you will definitely feel a little better when buying new garments!

While I am not recommending to boycott secondhand stores, as I find it amazing that we donate as much as we do, instead try to correct this habit from the beginning. Practice shopping at these secondhand stores instead of fast fashion outlets and find garments that you could see yourself wearing a couple of years down the road instead of just in the moment. If we can start little by little, it could make a huge difference for more than just our closets.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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