“For anyone who doesn’t want their old shirts, pants or dresses to end up in a landfill, clothing donation bins sound like a win-win-win solution: the donor gets to declutter, the charity operating the bin gets to resell the clothing to fund good deeds, and a shopper on a budget gets to buy affordable clothes. But in reality, the path your worn-out jeans take isn’t so straight, and doesn’t always benefit the people you may think.”
Canda’s CBC News series Reduce, Reuse and Rethink explores the hidden world of old clothes a recent story.
Overdressed author Elizabeth L. Cline discussed her experiences tracing used clothes from North America to the secondhand stalls of Nairobi, Kenya. She explained that clothing recycling technology doesn’t yet exist at scale.
“Textile-to-textile recycling technology doesn’t really exist yet. It’s in its earliest stages,” Cline told CBC News. “And add to that the fact that most developing countries don’t have even basic collection and recycling programs anyway.”
Cline says that charities are doing nothing wrong, and if consumers are looking for someone to blame about what happens to their unused stuff, they should look to their own shopping habits.
“The consumer is at fault here,” Cline said. “We’re the ones that are buying too much stuff and then we want our unwanted things to somehow be good for the world. It’s really crazy. It doesn’t make any sense.”