What Happens To Donated Clothes Once They Leave Your Closet?

Some of us are at peace just by knowing that they have contributed by donating to a charitable organizations. There are other restless souls that can’t help but wonder what happens to donated clothes once they leave your closet and are added to a local donation bin?

Fasten your seatbelts because the truth can be little disappointing!

Various reports have recently highlighted that majority of the donations to meet their fate as they should. Instead of being sold at thrift store or get distributed amongst the needy, many companies tend to recycle them for their own benefit. They sell them overseas for profit. Alternatively, they simply dump the clothes with rest of the garbage.

However, what happens to your donated clothes somewhat depends on the channel you use to dispose them of. Let’s take a look at some of these scenarios.

Local Charities Can Use It For Noble Cause

Local charities promise to either donate the stuff you provide directly to the needy or put it up for resale at thrift stores. This can be used to gather financial aid for the less fortunate of the community.

The Salvations Army and Goodwill are few of the most prominent charitable organizations working in this manner. You will find plenty of clothing donation bins and thrift stores that they have set up. But, as Saturday Evening Post Report highlights, only 10% of the donations they accept are properly utilized.

The stores wait for buyers to check out the available items for up to 3 or 4 days. If they are not successful in selling them, the racks eventually get cleared to make room for the next donations.

They are taken to textiles recycling units and eventually turned into rags or dumped. Textile waste mills can easily recycle any piece of clothing that does not have mildew and has not been stained with a solvent like gasoline. Recycled textile is often ground into fiber to make insulation, paper, carpet padding, or yarn.

Is This Acceptable?

Although this goes against the primary purpose of a charity center, recycling has its own advantages. These go out for the environment if not the people of the community.

  • It reduces greenhouse gas production.
  • It was noted in 2014 that recycling and reuse of 89 million tons of waste including paper, plastic, and textiles reduced the annual production of Carbon dioxide considerably.

Another method that these companies use to dispose of unneeded items is to have them packed and sent overseas to underdeveloped regions like Africa. They are often separated and labelled by size, season, or gender. This is to make it convenient to supply to the population there.

  • This has negative impact on the local markets of the countries that already do not have a stable economy.
  • Some places like Kenya and Rwanda are banning clothe and shoe import so their local manufacturers can flourish instead.
  • If things are also not sold or used there, they create clutter and more garbage for the landfills.

Store’s Take Back Programs Mostly Recycle

Levi’s, Madewell, GAP, Patagonia, and H&M are some famous stores have recently launched “Take Back programs”. The idea behind such schemes is to encourage buyers to return products they don’t need anymore. The store itself can recycle and reuse it.

Some stores even promise a discount voucher to the buyers who return items in the name of charity.

The downside to recycling is that it weakens the fibers in the clothing. This means it can not be used to high-quality, newer garments. Those made from multiple layers such as 95% cotton and 5% spandex are difficult to separate.

Since less than 0.7% of the recycled material can be used in new clothing, most of it is turned into rags, insulations or carpet padding. In any case, it is saved from being dumped into landfills. Moreover, technology has been rapidly advancing. For example, Levi’s has been successful in manufacturing 100% recycled cotton jeans.

Effects of Textile Dumped With Trash

It is a hard fact that more than 80% of clothing that we wish to dispose of is simply dumped with rest of the garbage. This can amount up to 13 million tons of textiles per year in the US alone. Can you imagine the amount of textime filling our wastelands around the globe?

Precise calculations can take a while but it is safe to say that we, as an environmentally-conscious generation, should do better!

The odd thing about dumping cloths is that the damage does not end there. When sweater or shirts-like material decompose, it releases greenhouse gases which is typical of a poly-blended fabric. Carbon dioxide and methane has an extremely adverse impact on the environment.

The same is the case with textile recycling companies or stores that try to reuse the fabric after extreme treatment. They can be releasing as much as 30 Kg of carbon dioxide in making or breaking one pair of jeans only.

This emphasizes on the need to not just purchase clothing mindfully but to be careful on how we choose to clear out our closets too.

Watch Out For Donation Bins!

Sliding down a sweater or piece of garment you did not wear anymore into a local clothing donation bin seems like a safe move. This works when you want your charity item to reach the deserving class.

However, you must note that majority of the donation bins that have now been stationed at every corner of the cities belong to for-profit textile recycling companies.

This means there are parties only posing as charitable organization. Whereas, they actually take your stuff to recycling units to filter the material they need and dump the rest into landfills where the remaining garbage goes.

Since they have to legalize their operation as a donation company, they share a percentage of the profit only to various programs directed towards helping the underserved sector. In fact, less than 10% of the donated stuff actually makes its way to where it should go: thrift stores or charity centers.

This is quite unsettling! Such events can make the population lose trust even in those charitable organizations that are working legitimately. We recommend our readers to do a background check into performance of the store they wish to donate to beforehand.

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