Give old clothes a new life … right?


What happens to your clothes after you have worn them

The pants you’re not wearing, donate it. The old T-shirt that has been in your closet for years, donate it. These sweaters hanging in the back, donate it. We all have a bad habit of buying clothes and then wear it maybe once. Fashion used to change with the seasons, now it can change almost every day. Fashion has to reflect who we are, what we feel and where we’re going. This all goes with the fast fashion. Fast fashion is the inexpensive clothing, which is produced rapidly by mass-market retailers. They do this as a response to the latest trends. According to CBC NEWS we are spending around 400% more on clothing since the 1980’s. In need of more space in your closet? Then donate them right?  

Some retailers are on a mission. They want your unwanted clothes. They will give the unwanted clothes a new life. However, are they really doing as much good as we think? In my last article we’ve talked about how clothing is being made, but what happens after we have worn them? While we feel good about the donation of old clothing. We believe we’re doing a great thing to the world by giving our old clothes of those living in need. Nevertheless, in reality, it is not that simple.

“Put your old clothes in the donation bin.”

Most clothing don’t even make it to ‘a new life’. Around 85% end up in landfill. One of the reasons why fashion is one of the biggest polluters is because most fabrics can’t be broken down. These fabrics, like polyester are releasing chemicals into our world. And that is why the ‘donation bin’ was being put into the stores. While we put our clothes into a donation bin, getting discount for the donated clothes (to buy even more clothes?).

The H&M campaign for example, they say that they make your old clothes into new garments. It might take about 12 years to recycle what they sell within 24 hours. However they are bold recycling claims, but are they really recycling? A lot of our clothes are made out of blended fibers, which makes it really difficult to recycle it. To add up, when we recycle cotton and wool the quality will be diminished. Our technology is just not there yet. It is still way to expensive and time consuming.

“Well then we will give thrift-stores”

When we give our clothing to charity we think that they are going to people in need. However, because of fast fashion, there are more unwanted clothes than people in need. So while some of the clothing is going to local second-hand shops, a lot is sold to a middleman, who will sell it to charities like UNICEF. According to Kate Bahen, managing director of Charity Intelligence, and several news reports, clothing is bundled together and sold by its eights. The pieces that can’t be sold are being shredded, the rest goes overseas to developing countries.

“Donated for free to be sold for profit, wait, what?”

The pieces that can’t be sold are being shredded, the rest goes overseas to developing countries to be sold to traders who then retail the clothes. These second hand clothes are cheaper than the new ones. It might create new jobs for the locals to sell these clothing. However it can end local textile industries and clothing producers, so it is putting these countries out of business. These ‘new’ clothes aren’t even given away free to the locals, they are sold. To add up, there are so many items donated overseas, the leftovers will end up into a bin AGAIN.

“Made in … send to the west … donated … send to third world countries … to be dumped”

These shipped clothes are “dumped” there. After a long trip to a developing country, the selection starts. Stricting, a big part of the donated clothes are of bad quality. This is next to the fact that it doesn’t fit their local fashion. The clothing that aren’t good anymore will be dumped on a garbage dump. Here the clothes will be burned, which is really bad for the environment.

“Dumping is the cheaper option. However the producer should be responsible”

Many African countries close their borders for the western clothing. They want to ban it to keep the local economy going. You get why they want to do that right? However we know what happens in the end. Why keep we doing it? It isn’t that it is bad to donate your clothes, but we might have to keep it on local basis. So our economy can go, no textile goes to waste, but we don’t block the development of third world countries. Recycling is still in an early stage. Think before you buy.



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