- 7:09 am - Wed, Mar 28, 2012
- 74 notes
An article in GOOD reports that only a shocking 15 to 20 percent of clothing donations are resold in U.S. thrift shops. The rest is either sold to become industrial wiping rags, recycled into insulation, or shipped to other countries. While the most desirable vintage items are sold to Japan, Africa receives the bulk of our secondhand clothing, making it one of the continent’s top imports. This exchange is documented in films like T-Shirt Travels, which shows how imported American used clothing is responsible for killing off the Zamibian clothing manufacturing industry.
Perhaps the most surprising statistic in the article is that Americans only keep 21 percent of the clothing we buy each year. The facts are astonishing: not only does America export the majority of its donated clothing, we simply can’t reabsorb the amount of clothing we give away. We have an overwhelming excess of garments. No longer a hand-me-down culture, cheap clothing prices have made it affordable to buy into new trends and toss out last season’s look.
I bolded the bit I personally found most surprising. I’ve read quite a bit about the ecosystem of donated goods, particularly apparel. But I can’t recall seeing a stat about how much or how little clothing we buy we actually hang onto. The number is so stark I’m not completely sure I accept it — do people really get rid of almost 80 percent of the apparel they buy every year?