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Why Your Donated Clothing May Never Be Seen Again

Updated: Jan 15, 2023

January 1, 2023



I don’t know about you, but anytime I donate an item I always daydream about where it may end up. Maybe it is because my family loved the Toy Story movies as a child and I could imagine how happy those new toys felt with a new playmate, but I truly believe someone will love my unused items and they will live a second life elsewhere.


The EPA suggests that 84% of all clothing winds up being incinerated or lying in a landfill. NOPE - that doesn't align with my secondhand vision at all!

How does this happen when so many good-intentioned people donate their clothing?


Approximately 80% percent of all clothing donations are purchased by textile recyclers

According to this diagram by the Council for Textile Recycling, only 10 - 20% of clothing is put on the racks for reuse. The rest of the donated clothing items are sold for repurposing. The organization is earning a profit from your donation, but your beloved sweater may be facing the shredder and never be worn again.


For-profit textile recycling companies charade as charitable clothing bins

Those bins exploding with bags outside of your favorite convenience store may not be the community solution it is pretending to be. Most often clothing items found in bins are never sent to local organizations but are immediately bagged and shipped overseas.


Not all donations are created equal

Charity should not be “get what you get and don’t get upset”. Every person needs help now and again and assistance should still honor human dignity. If you won't wear clothing with holes, broken zippers, and unknown stains no one else should either. No matter how fashionable the item is, your clothing may never see the light of day


So what can you do to ensure a new loving home for your favorite clothing?

Find a local nonprofit organization, give them a call and ask the following questions.

What clothing donations do you accept?

What do you do with the clothing you may not sell?

What is the average age of your shoppers?

How do you accept donations?


Asking these questions will help you ensure the clothes you donate will go to good use. Providing gently used children's clothing to a mostly elderly community center will most likely find those clothes resold and vice versa. Also many, many bags enter those locations daily. If they are in large heavy, garbage bags the volunteers may not be able to lift the clothing and they may never even open the bags to find your amazing items. It is important to know what an organization can use to ensure it goes to your intended use.



Finding a community organization like Starfish Swap, that partners with other local nonprofits, will help to distribute any donations they might not use before theygetthrown away or resold. The more you avoid the for-profit clothing bins will be keeping clothing out of landfills and give them the second life they deserve with a loving new owner.



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