Those jeans you donated last winter are probably in East Africa right now being sold for $1.50.
You may think that when you donate to Goodwill your used clothes quickly end up in a store, available for purchase, but that’s not always the case. Indeed most items are sold in Goodwill stores—and this is great news, as 82 percent of Goodwill’s revenue is used to fund employment and training programs for the disabled and others facing challenges to securing employment. However, some items are recycled and some are even thrown in the landfill.
To give you an idea of where your blue jeans go, here’s what employees from Goodwill told the Huffington Post about the journey your clothes take after being donated to Goodwill:
- Goodwill Retail Store Workers operating in more than 3,000 stores nationwide go through all of your donated items to make sure they’re usable and non-toxic (i.e., not wet or full of mildew). If no one likes your clothes in four weeks, they’re taken off the shelf and go to…
- Goodwill Outlet Store Like those outlet stores you see along the interstate, Goodwill has their own chain of outlets. Customers are encouraged to buy donated clothes at ridiculously low prices so that Goodwill can keep the clothes out of the landfill. If customers don’t want your clothes for 99 cents, some go to…
- Goodwill Auction This is where bidders bid on huge bins, going for as little as $35, without knowing what’s inside—think “Storage Wars” but for donated clothes. If your clothes don’t go to auction or aren’t unloaded during the auction, they’re sent to…
- Textile Recycling Centers These organizations will take your clothes where they will either be resold in the U.S., cut into rags, processed into a soft fiber filling for furniture and home insulation, or sent overseas to salvage dealers. This is not an ideal destination for your clothes. Sending them overseas can mean robbing jobs from locals since that $1.50 pair of blue jeans is cheaper than what locals working in the textile industries in developing countries can make. And as the last resort, if your clothes don’t go overseas (or get cut up), they’re sent to…
- Landfill Only 5 percent of donated clothes are sent here, but they contribute to the 12 million tons of U.S. textile waste that end up in landfills annually
Although almost 95 percent of all clothing waste could be recycled or reused in some form, a new survey says that the average American will throw away 81 pounds of clothing and textile products this year. So what can we all do to keep so much clothing from ending up in landfills?
1. Never Throw Away Your Clothes
Side note: If you have wet or moldy clothes, talk to your city’s sanitation department about properly disposing of them.
2. Consider Selling Unwanted Items Online
From eBay to Craigslist, there are many online outlets where you can sell clothing, trinkets and knickknacks. Our favorite happens to be EBTH. Here, people can sell collections of items (like model cars, Disney collectibles, Precious Moments, rare coins and more) or even an entire house-worth of stuff.
Their trained professionals catalogue, photograph and write descriptions of each item you want to sell. Items go up for auction for seven days. Afterwards, they manage payment, pickup, shipping and delivery, so it’s easy as pie for you.
According to EBTH, sale proceeds are typically 3-5 times higher than traditional alternatives. If you’re downsizing or decluttering, we definitely recommend checking them out.
3. Make Use Of Hand-Me-Downs
My favorite coat growing up was this Iowa Hawkeyes Starter jacket that used to be my older cousin’s. Thanks to my family’s hand-me-down culture, we kept clothes in the family for years, until we finally sent them to donation centers.
4. Be Mindful Of Your Shopping Habits
Instead of buying all the clothes you want, buy only the clothes you need. Courtney Carver of minimalist fashion challenge Project 333 limits herself to wearing only 33 different items of clothing every three months, but comes up with enough combinations to avoid wearing the same outfit twice in one week.
Cut down on the amount of clothing you buy (and therefore eventually throw away or donate), and you’ll free up space in your closet, your wallet and our landfills. Win, win, win!