What happens to all the old clothing that people don’t want anymore, and what happens to the items brands and stores can’t sell? One word: Donation.
In the Dutch clothing sector approximately 21,5 million clothing items are unsold every year. This accounts for 6,5% of the total yearly production. The vast majority of these items are being donated to charity, around 70%. The rest is either kept in stock, sold in an outlet, recycled (3%) or burned (2,7% which is 1,2 million pieces every year). Brand and stores sell their unsold clothing to charities per kilo and mostly end up in countries in Eastern-Europe, Africa or Asia (Awearness Fashion, 2016).
“But there is a problem when it comes to donating clothing to charity.”
But consumers obviously also have items they don’t want to wear anymore. In total 124 million kilo of clothing is thrown away every year by the Dutch people alone of which 23,5 million kilo is being thrown in one of the donation bins (Bedrock, 2017). We all know the bins that say ’Throw your unused clothing in here and we donate it to charities’. The bins are owned by different companies like The Salvation Army, Sympany or Humanitas. These companies collect the items and resell them to a sorting company. Here they first remove weird items like real trash or items people left in their pockets. But what is next?
The donated clothing is either resold, bought and worn again (think about vintage shops) or shipped off to foreign countries. Only a small percentage is good enough to end up in a shop in Amsterdam or any other Dutch city for that matter. Then there are the items that are pretty but not vintage, these are sent to Eastern-Europe. The rest is sold to other countries like India, Pakistan or Mali (Bedrock, 2017).
But there has risen a problem when it comes to donating clothing to charity. The sorting companies sell it per kilo before it goes on the market in the designated countries. The clothing needs to meet certain requirements, after all, the clothing has to be sold and worn again. But because of the enormous amounts of clothing that EVERY Western Country donates, many of the countries clothing industry suffers from it. Because the donated clothing is so cheap and come in these amounts, local textile producing businesses are seen as way too expensive. In Kenya for example, the government considers an import ban to stimulate their own textile industry (Huffington Post, 2016).
In conclusion, even though donating is good in terms of giving your items a second life, it should not be a(nother) reason to buy more clothing than you really need. The only way to stop the overconsumption in the fashion industry is to not buy more than you need.