Where do my clothes end up?

Image - Elizabeth L Cline

With such an increase in our consumption of fashion we should be considering where last seasons unwanted garments end up...another part of the lifecycle of our clothing that garners little of our attention. Possibly because fast fashion is often also labelled “disposable fashion”, we have taken this term as one that indicates it is ok. In reality fashion is not at all disposable and simply throwing out unwanted garments is not ok!

"The average American throws out 82 pounds (37kg) of textile waste every year, adding up to 11 million tonnes of textile waste from the US alone." - The True Cost

Most of us have good intentions and donate our used clothing, but according to The Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles Association (SMART) only around 45% of these donations are actually resold as used clothing.  So what happens to the rest? Some garments find a second life through associations like SMART, becoming industrial rags or being ground down and reprocessed. Others are sold off to textile merchants who, after sorting and grading the garments, export them to be sold in developing nations...turning your donations into tradable goods.

While the exporting of our used clothing provides opportunities for buyers in these countries to resell at a profit it simultaneously becomes particularly damaging to the local garment industries. And whatever remains unsaleable ends up dumped in landfill...in these developing countries. So we are simply moving the problem for those less fortunate to deal with! An everlasting, but out of sight, and environmentally damaging byproduct of our trend driven wardrobes caused by the fact that our consumption has reached a level where the amount of 'used' clothing we are producing exceeds the world's need for it. 

While of course it is always better to donate or re-sell your used clothing, what we really need to consider is where the problem begins. And that is with us and how much we consume. Consider how you can fill your wardrobe in more environmentally friendly ways. Become more aware of where your donations go by asking your local charity what they do with unsold clothing. Understanding where your used clothing may eventually end up might make you think twice before you make that next impulse purchase. Let’s start reducing the waste in our wardrobes by practicing conscious consumption and help curb consumerism together...one conscious step at a time.