The doom of secondhand business

I have first published this post in 2008. As I have gained loads of new readers in the past fall and spring I wanted to re-post this as I feel very passionate about secondhand clothing and would hate to see my favorite thrift shops go out of business...

Recycling clothes - a dieing business?

One of the things that I was surprised (and shocked) to read from Matilda Lee´s Eco chic - the savvy shopper´s guide to ethical fashion is that if things continue the way they have for the last ten years, the business of recycling clothes will eventually go OUT OF BUSINESS.

It´s not that the world will run out of clothes and accessories but the quality of our clothes has degraded so much that an increasing number of them are not reusable or recycable anymore. Last year in UK less than 8%(!!) of all donated clothes actually ended up being resold in charity shops. A part are recycled as industry wipe cloths and others shipped as charitable aid to the third world countries. Some 7% are not even woth being recycled or further donated, so they end up in landfills. And this is just the clothes people bother to donate to charity. In the UK three out of four unwanted clothes a thrown straight to the bin with out the chance of being reused.

All the donated clothes come to the sorting centres as bulk so there´s no way of for the company to know how much of it can be reused or recycled. Sorting and shipping tons of clothes is a timeconsuming job that of cource costs a lot of money even though the material is "free". The recycle companies also pay for each unusable rag-ton that is dumped as landfill. And the tons are piling up. In the year 2000 some 65% of our donated clothes were still recycable in some way. Last year the number had dropped to 40% because we buy more and more poor quality rags. Eventually the waste costs of our donated clothes will be higher than the profits recieved from reselling secondhand. Get my drift?

No wonder clothing recycle companies have so little percenage to give to charity since most of it is wasted in sorting and driving our polyester rags to the landfill... So what can you do? Here are my suggestions.

First, take good care and repair your clothes and accessories so they can be worn longer. Or customize them to a more fashionable and unique form. A new additional alternative is to arrange clothing-swap-evenings with your friends to exchange fashions with out money.

Secondly, don´t buy shit. If you do deside to buy new clothes, make sure they are of good quality (preferably eco fibres) so they will survive to the second and third round. Buy secodhand as much as possible.

Third, if you have clothes in your wardrobe that you do not use, donate them now. Fashion trends have become so fast that your clothes will "expire" if you hold on to them too long. And who wants to buy them then? Don´t throw any away. Fashion-swap is also an alternative.

Here´s a good article about what happens to your donated clothes by Paula Bock for The Seattle Times if you´re intrested in reading more about this issue.

Outi Les Pyy

Phasellus facilisis convallis metus, ut imperdiet augue auctor nec. Duis at velit id augue lobortis porta. Sed varius, enim accumsan aliquam tincidunt, tortor urna vulputate quam, eget finibus urna est in augue.


  1. Clothing swaps are a GREAT idea. When I lived in America and had a circle of friends and co-workers we would hold "clothes trading parties". Someone would host, everyone would bring their unwanted clothes, wine and food and we would have a grand party. Everyone would walk away with at least a few "new to them" clothes that they loved. All the unwanted clothes were donated to a women's shelter. Try swapping clothes, it really is fun!

  2. I like your site is to good.

  3. It frustrates me that people chuck it out (unless its worn to peices). WASTEFUL and unnecessary.

  4. Very disturbing article. We have become a wasteful society with no end in sight.

  5. Hei! Blogisi syötteet ovat mukana Kiepauksessa, lue siitä lisää blogistani: . Iso kiitos kivoista vinkeistäsi! - JJ