What Happens To Clothes When You Donate Them?

Ever wondered about the fate of your unwanted clothes? With the rising demand for budget-friendly clothing, the inclination to purchase more while retaining less is on the rise.

As fast fashion retailers gain popularity, people are tempted to buy low-price, and often low-quality clothing driven by the desire to stay abreast of fashion trends. However, this often leads to a high turnover for clothes, with many garments either being discarded or donated to charity clothing stores. This is especially the case for baby and kids' clothes, as children quickly grow out of their clothes. 

However, when clothes are donated, only a fraction finds its way back onto the shelves of the donating store. A significant portion is either shipped to other countries or ends up in landfills.

In this post, we'll explore the journey of your donated clothes and discuss ways you can contribute to the reduction of textile waste in the future.

Donating your clothes to charity shops

It is likely that we have all donated clothes to charity shops in the past, and may well plan to in the future. Whether we are donating kids’ clothes or our own clothes because they no longer fit, or we just want a change, donating used clothing to be re-sold and re-worn seems like the eco-friendly thing to do. However, what exactly happens to our clothes when we donate them? 

Due to the effect of fast-fashion retailers and consumer behaviour the amount of clothes donated is too much for UK charity shops to cope with. Although a portion of donated clothes make it to the shelves, the reality is that many are sold to foreign countries and shipped abroad.

According to a 2019 report from the Environmental Audit Committee, only as little as 30 percent of donations are resold in second-hand stores in the UK, with many items unsuitable to be sold. 

Of those items that are unsuitable due to being too worn, or too damaged to sell they turn into recycled textiles or are sold to the rag trade. However, the largest percentage of unwanted garments, as much as 70% of reused clothing, is sold to overseas garment trade, as discussed in this report from the BBC.

The garment trade abroad 

Clothes that are sold to the garment trade are shipped abroad to locations such as Africa, Pakistan, and Eastern Europe. Here your clothes are sold in markets, and where they end up depends on the type of garment. 

Research conducted by Dr Andrew Brooks, the author of Clothing Poverty, found that although donated clothing is being resold, it is to the detriment of the textile industries of developing countries. Additionally, due to the fast-paced nature of the garment trade, clothes are sold in bulk to traders and sadly not all the clothing is resold, with many garments going to landfills in Africa instead of the UK. 

What can we do to avoid garment waste?

There are many things we as consumers can do to help avoid contributing to garment waste. Here are a few great options: 

New clothing

  • Reduce the amount you buy and avoid mass-produced cheap clothing. 
  • Buy quality items that are made with high-quality materials so they last longer.
  • Take care of your clothes and follow the laundry instructions to maximise their wear, or get them repaired if necessary.
  • Buy second-hand clothes over new items. 
  • Rent clothing that you need to replace quickly such as children's clothing. Here at Borro, we have a brilliant selection of high-quality children’s clothing you can rent hassle-free.  

Unwanted clothing: 

  • Donate unwanted clothes to local homeless shelters and unwanted baby clothes to children's clothing banks. 
  • Re-sell your clothes locally or on clothing resale sites such as eBay and Vinted, which are especially great for selling second-hand kids clothes. 

With some small adjustments to your buying habits and by choosing alternative ways to consume fashion, such as renting or buying second-hand, you can greatly help reduce the amount of waste generated by the clothing industry. 

 

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