Even the clothes you donate probably end up in a landfill

Popular Science | 6/11/2018 | Staff
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If you’ve ever dropped off a bag of last year’s clothes at Goodwill, you probably didn’t think you were contributing to waste. Although donating your clothes does extend their lifespan, the issue is their eventual destinations.

“A lot of people have a misconception that their donations are ending up on the back of someone in need in your community,” says Jessica Schrieber, FabScrap’s founder. That’s not what happens, she says.

Clothes - Thrift - Stores - Majority - Items

The nicest clothes are resold in local thrift stores, but the vast majority of items head overseas, wrapped into enormous plastic bundles. Pakistan is currently the biggest importer of used clothes, with 11 percent of the market, followed by Malaysia, with 7.1 percent, according to M.I.T.’s Observatory of Economic Complexity. When clothes are in no condition to be worn again, they are shredded and put in insulation or furniture.

And while it’s good for the environment to reuse these clothes, it creates ethical quandries. The U.S. has been criticized for the practice, which can erode local clothing markets and traditions.

One - Country - Ground - Baruchowitz

“No one really wants to be another country’s dumping ground,” Baruchowitz says.

Recently, three East African countries stood up to the industry and initiated a ban on secondhand clothing—and felt strong pushback from American businesses. Since these East African markets are worth over $43 million, the loss could mean a blow to the American secondhand clothing industry—and that the clothes get shipped to a U.S. landfill instead.

Clothes - Life - Cycle

Even though exporting used clothes extends their life cycle, they...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Popular Science
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