As you might remember from our article on food banks, we’re very active on the charity sector here at TWC and love giving back where we can. But we’ve been particularly keen in giving back something we know a lot about lately, which is mainly: clothes, beauty and home accessories.
Are you in the process of moving houses and have only just realised how much you’ve been pilling up in your closets? Or are you currently sick and tired of clutter and have a lot of unused beauty products you’re ready to part from? We all know the feeling, trust us, but instead of pushing everything into your van or drawers knowing you’ll never use then again, why don’t you walk to your nearest shelter and make someone happy?
Let me ask you this however: do you ever sit down and wonder what actually happens to your stuff once its donated and where this trend of giving away clothes is coming from? It turns out, the Salvation Army was the first known charity shop. It was founded in the 1880s and was where most clothes were donated in usually great conditions. This outweighs of demands in the fashion industry took a turn during the postwar era where increase in salaries also brought more diversified wardrobes which meant that charities were receiving more and more secondhand donations and opening new shops, which is when Oxfam in the UK came about.
It wasn’t until the 1990s, however, that the surplus of clothing became very apparent. Fast fashion meant that clothes became much more affordable and people around the world bought five times as much clothing as they did in the 80s, which brought the birth of more charities such as Goodwill in America, and Traid in the UK.
Today, charity shops such as Traid go beyond recycling clothes. They are helping the environment by reducing carbon emission, waste and consumption. They are also using donations to fund international development projects to improve conditions and working practices in the textile industry, and is educating people of all ages about the impact of textiles in the environment.
So after hearing all of this, how could you not join the cause? But most importantly, this should help you focus on ways you could help these charities beyond donating your clothes.
The only question left however, is where our clothes actually end up when we donate them to charities, and the answer is not as straight forward as you would think. Turns out most of what we actually hand over ends up getting shipped abroad to either a new home or shop, rather than being landfill. Few would, however, dispute that giving your clothes to a new consumer rather than landfill is a good thing.
The issue with our clothes being shipped abroad is mostly because charity shops will be making a profit from your clothes, rather than profiting the environment or community. But you must remember that not all pieces of garments will get sold, which means that the rest will be sold to textile merchants, who will then sort, grade and export the garments and recycle them.
The great aspect of the profit those charities make for companies such as Traid, is that they are actually using that income to help communities. But at the end of the day, this should also be a calling for people to stop buying cheap clothing they will wear once, and donate to the charity. The fact that many of our old clothes end up oversees should not stop people going to charities, but rather think about a way to help these charities become profitable for the world.
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