What happens to your clothes when you shop like you’re drunk?
Spoiler alert: It involves A LOT of bad decisions.
We’re not talking “is this dress too risqué for the office?” bad decisions, either. We’re talking about the reason why most of your clothes end up in landfill after a few short years (or much less).
What bad shopping decisions lead to this outcome?
Buying on the fly: “oh it’s only $20, I’ll just buy it and try it on later.”
Buying too much: “I’ll just get both tops, I’ll wear them at some point.”
Spending too little: “It doesn’t matter if it falls apart in a month, it didn’t cost much anyway.”
There are many, many more, but these three tend to be the top contenders.
The result? A pile of clothes you don’t want, or need, and which you’re looking to get rid of. You might be thinking that this is all well and good, but you’re a responsible humanitarian and you donate your leftover clothes to charity. But hold onto your Top Shop shoelaces, because you can’t wash your hands of the situation yet.
Do you know what really happens to your clothes when you send them to charity?
Australia throws out a whopping 6000 kg of clothing every 10 minutes, according to War on Waste presenter, Craig Reucassel. But people are under the impression that because it goes to charity, it will be recycled, right? Wrong. Reucassel reveals that The Smith Family (one of Australia’s largest charity donation organisations) sends approximately 30% of the clothes donated to landfill. The garments they receive are often of such poor quality that they cannot be recycled. Worst still, these clothes actually end up costing the charity organisation more ($1M in 2016!) to ship to landfill. That’s $1M that could have gone to uneducated children and families in need.
Reucassel has undoubtedly uncovered this fact for many Aussies this year, but the reality is that this kind of waste has been going on for decades. Earlier in 2017, Clare Press wrote for the Sydney Morning Herald, revealing that The Salvation Army spends a massive $5-6M annually, on the collection and disposal of unsaleable donated clothing. One Million Women’s Bronte Hogarth also discovered that Lifeline sends just under one-third of their donations to the tip. The saying ‘one man’s trash is another man’s treasure’ only stretches so far.
So maybe it’s best to think twice before stuffing your pizza stained, cream dress into a bag and plonking it into the nearest charity bin. You could be doing more harm than good for these organisations, who spend far too much of their money sorting through your cheap, dirty clothes for you. The solution? Only donate good quality clothes.
But what do you do with the rest?
Here’s where we go back to the very beginning. When you’re in the shops, picking up $10 bargains and frantically tapping your card like Cher Horowitz if she existed post PayWave. Or you’re on your second glass of wine, your mouse is hovering over the ‘pay now’ button on an overflowing shopping cart and you’re thinking ‘stuff it, I’ll treat myself!’ Stop shopping like you’re drunk and addicted to impulse buys.
Make it last.
This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t donate to charity. It’s about making a conscious decision to give good quality clothes that have served their purpose for one individual. Being able to donate to charity should not be a crutch on which we learn to justify buying copious amounts of clothing that we do not need.