There was a time I suspected that True Blood t-shrit I donated to the Goodwill was somewhere being proudly worn by a single father of eight who struggled to afford his own HBO-endorsed clothing. But at some point I realized those heaping bins of second-hand clothes from across the eras were probably not going to be sold out in a hurry. It turns out most of them will never hit the shelves with 80% going to textile recyclers.
According to the American trade association for textile recyclers Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles, 80% of all clothes donated to charity go to textile recyclers who resell your clothes and my True Blood tshirt for purposes that don’t necessarily honour our sartorial legacies, NPR reports.
Forty-five percent of their haul is exported internationally, 30% is used to make wiping cloths, and 20% is used in other products, such as pillow stuffing, carpet padding, and auto insulation (this just made me extra grateful for those tags that label “all new material”). And fast-fashion made in places such as Bangladesh and Vietnam are hard for even the recyclers to unload.
The Peterborough, Ont based Canadian Textile Recycling places the highest premium on shoes, offering $2.50 per pound. On the other side of the spectrum, ladies polyester pants are worth a mere $0.30 per pound.
Obviously our donations are still being put to good use—the used clothing stores sell off the unwanted merchandise, boosting their revenue so they can continue providing affordable clothing. But you might not want to dwell on the probability that the cherished pieces you grew out of are less likely to become someone’s Sunday best than someone’s sofa stuffing.