In my home, when we’re through with clothes or shoes, we typically hold onto them a long, long time — not out of sentimentality, simply for lack of a convenient alternative.
Typically, most of the clothes are in good condition or even “like new” — so they are obviously not garbage material. But I have long suspected that even worn-out garments have life remaining in them. A little investigation shows this is true.
Clothing is one of the most reusable and recyclable products there is. Just get it to an organization or company that accepts old clothes and they will take it from there. (Some even offer pick-up service.)
Here’s what happens to the clothes next.
- The best clothes — those that are still in fashion and top condition — are resold in thrift shops, or distributed to the needy, in our own country.
- Second-best clothes are sold to secondhand clothing markets in less-developed countries. (Some people worry that this could undermine local textile industries there, but a study by Oxfam concludes that the used clothes trade is not the main obstacle to local industry. Meanwhile, it does create hundreds of thousands of jobs and benefit consumers in these nations.)
- Clothes that are no longer fit to wear are turned into rags and polishing cloths.
- The dregs are transformed into new fiber that can be used for other new products.
Find out how to dispose of clothes responsibly — through clothing donations, recycling, clothes swaps, resale and more — in my latest column for NRDC. (You’ll have to SCROLL to get to all the links.)