March 3, 2023 | OPINION | By Maddie Mollerus

With Spring cleaning around the corner, many of us turn to our closets. After we’re done with our closet cleanouts; we’re left with bags of clothes that need getting rid of. So, what are the options? We could give our old clothes to our friends—we all know at least one person who could benefit from our super cute clothes, right? Or we could sell our clothing online—get more money for more clothes! We could simply toss our stuff into a dumpster, but that seems like a waste.

Ah, better yet, we could just donate our clothing leftovers to a Goodwill or the Arc. It’s a quick and easy way to get rid of clothes while helping others. It sounds like the perfect solution…

But it’s not! Sorry to burst your bubble, but donating is not a one-size-fits-all solution to the surplus clothing crisis exacerbated by fast fashion. Just look at this depressing estimation from the Environmental Protection Agency: 84 percent of our used clothing ends up in landfills or being incinerated.

In 2021, Goodwill received 5.7 billion pounds of donations. But, on average, 50 percent of donations to Goodwill aren’t suitable to be sold in Goodwill stores. The remainder of donations are sold to Goodwill outlets, textile recycling centers, or salvage dealers. From there, old clothing can be turned into rags, sold overseas, or recycled into other goods like insulation or yarn.

While recycling clothing into other goods is positive for the environment, I’m guessing that most people’s intentions are for their donations to go to other people to wear. Additionally, clothing that’s sold overseas, particularly to African countries, can flood textile markets and have ruinous effects on the local economies.

We like to justify a clothing purchase by telling ourselves that when we’re done with a garment, we can just donate it and it will go to another person who will love it just as much. Clearly, the donation system is not this simple. This kind of thinking just encourages us to buy , which only adds more textile waste to the world.

If donating now sounds like a last resort, there’s a few things you can do instead. First (I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again), STOP BUYING FAST FASHION. Invest in higher quality pieces that won’t go out of style in two months. Second, shift the purpose of your old clothing. Stained t-shirt? Wear it to bed or to work out. Have pets? Braided towels make for excellent dog toys. Don’t know what else to do? Cut up your old clothing into rags and use them to clean your dorm or apartment. Third, be an entrepreneur. Swap your clothes with your friends or sell your clothes to consignment shops to do the reselling for you.

I want to stress that not donating isn’t the solution I’m promoting; I’m just increasing awareness about a process that most people don’t think twice about. A lot of donation organizations do important charity work that’s funded by people buying others’ donated items.

Do your research on charities to find out what they do with your clothing and what causes they support. In order to increase your chances of your donated clothing being resold, make sure donations are in good condition, clean, and free of rips or missing buttons. It also helps if you avoid donating clothing that isn’t in season, like puffer jackets in the Summer or shorts in the Fall. If there’s no demand for that type of clothing at the moment, then it’s probably going to be sold overseas or turned into scrap.

If, the next time you go to the Arc, you think about everything that goes on behind the scenes at thrift and second-hand stores, I’ve done my job. Stay stylish, eco warriors.

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