Before you toss out your old clothes to make room for new, think about the best place to toss them. You’ve no doubt wondered if you should give your son’s old football jersey to Goodwill or put it in a rag bag.

American clothing is an environmental problem, largely because we have so much of it. Since the mid-2000s, the number of garments purchased by the average consumer has more than doubled, according to the Global Fashion Agenda’s Pulse Report. During the same time, the number of times a garment was worn by Westerners declined by 36%.

Where do our cast-offs go? St. Vincent de Paul and Goodwill do a good job of preparing clothing for local resale, and their shops are a boon to the community, both for access to things people need, and for the income that supports SVdP and Goodwill programs.

However, too much used clothing from the West ends up on African shores, often literally. Kenya received 185,000 tons of bundled and baled used clothing in 2019. Accra, Ghana’s Atlantic port, receives 15 million used garments every week from Europe, America and Australia (Vogue Business). About 40% of these garments are unsellable and go straight to the landfill. Bales are often brought from port directly to the landfill and burned.

The clothing export industry argues that secondhand clothing creates jobs, but the quality of these jobs is questionable. A few decades ago, half a million people were employed in Kenya’s own textile industry (Vogue Business). In 2014, that figure was about 38,000. Cheap repurposed clothing supplants African dress.

Sanipac now offers an opportunity to recycle fabric scraps and clothing too tattered to pass on. These items are sent to textile recyclers. You can rent the new Sanipac special recycling option or find a friend who does!

Green Line by Brenda Kame’enui

(To the reader: For readability, I often lift facts and figures directly from an article without using quotation marks. I always include sources below. -Brenda)