When you donate your clothes, you might feel like you're doing a good deed. But have you ever wondered what really happens to those clothes after they leave your hands?
In reality, the fate of your donated clothes can vary widely depending on a number of factors, including the quality of the clothing, the organization you donate to, and the demand for secondhand clothing in your area. Here are some possible outcomes for your donated clothes:
If your donated clothes are in good condition, they may be resold by the organization you donate to. Some charities have their own thrift stores or sell items online, while others may partner with external vendors to resell the clothes. In some cases, the profits from these sales may be used to fund the organization's mission or other charitable causes.
If your donated clothes are not in good enough condition to be resold, they may be recycled. Textile recycling involves breaking down the fibers in the fabric and using them to create new textiles or other products. Some organizations have their own textile recycling facilities, while others may partner with external vendors to recycle the clothes. Textile recycling, though better than being tossed in the trash, adds an additional layer to the pollution caused by the fashion industry.
3. Donating to those in need
Many organizations donate gently used clothes directly to those in need, such as people experiencing homelessness, refugees, or victims of natural disasters. These clothes may be distributed through shelters, community centers, or other local organizations. Many people think this is what happens when donating to many of the larger and more well-known organizations, but sadly, that's just not the case. If you haven't yet read Alice Minium's piece about Goodwill, check it out here. You're welcome. This corporate greed, deception, and exploitation under the guise of helping was the catalyst behind our founder starting up Thread Local Charities.
Unfortunately, in the United States alone, 85% of donated clothes end up in the trash according to the EPA. This can happen if the clothes are in poor condition and cannot be resold or recycled, or if the organization you donate to does not have the resources to properly sort and process the donations they receive. In some cases, clothes may also be thrown away if they are contaminated with mold, mildew, or other substances.
So, what can you do to ensure your donated clothes have the best possible outcome?
Here are some tips:
Take care of your clothes so you CAN donate them. Only clothes that are in good condition are able to be donated for a tax deduction. Don't take it from us, the IRS makes the rules. If your clothes are stained, ripped, or otherwise damaged, and you drop them off at one of the large donation centers, they will most likely end up in the trash.
Research the organization you're donating to. Find out what their policies are for reselling, recycling, and distributing clothes, and make sure you're comfortable with their approach.
Reduce your overall clothing consumption. By buying fewer clothes and making them last longer, you can help reduce the demand for new textiles and minimize the environmental impact of the fashion industry.
By taking these steps, you can help ensure that your donated clothes are put to good use and have the greatest possible impact.
Thread Local 360's mission is to drive the cultural shift toward fashion circularity while increasing awareness about the waste and pollution caused by the fashion industry. Please share our mission with someone like you and let's change the world.
"What Happens to Donated Clothes?" The Balance Small Business, https://www.thebalancesmb.com/what-happens-to-donated-clothes-4175263
"Where Do Your Donated Clothes Actually End Up?" Vox, https://www.vox.com/the-goods/2018/11/16/18096048/donate-clothes-goodwill-salvation-army-value-village-savers
"What Really Happens to Your Clothing Donations?" The Spruce, https://www.thespruce.com/what-happens-to-clothing-donations-4108004
"Textile Recycling: An Environmentally and Socially Responsible Way to Donate Unwanted Clothes," Greenpeace, https://www.greenpeace.org/usa/eco-fashion-textile-recycling/
"Fast Facts About the Environmental Impact of the Fashion Industry,"