Why people keep doing the one thing they shouldn't with old clothes.
Imagine this: You're walking through a mall or scrolling through your favorite fashion blog and then BOOM. You see it. The jeans you want — nay — need to have.
It doesn't matter that you just bought new jeans. These jeans are different. These jeans are the pair you've been wanting since, like, forever.
Sound familiar? It's a cycle that repeats itself with practically every article of clothing.
Here's the thing, though: What are you going to do with your old pair? The answer for many people is to throw it away.
Not donate to a charitable organization. Literally throw it away.
26 billion pounds of clothing goes to the landfill every year. That's 84% of all clothing and textile waste. Only the remaining 16% is actually donated.
But here's the kicker: The Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles Association (SMART) found that 95% of all worn or torn textiles can actually be reused or recycled!
So why aren't people donating these clothes?
Well, there are a lot of misconceptions around what can and can't be donated.
The main one being that people underestimate the potential of used clothes. In the 2017 State of Reuse Report commissioned by Savers, 62% of people who admitted to throwing clothes in the trash did so because they thought their stuff wasn't good enough to donate. (It probably was.)
In the same report, 75% thought torn or soiled clothes could not be recycled. In fact, they can! According to SMART, any kind of clothing can be repurposed or recycled as long as it isn't wet or contaminated with harmful substances such as paint or oil.
If more people knew that, would it make a difference? Well, in the same Savers report, 75% of respondents agreed with the following statement: "If I better understood how my actions hurt or helped the planet, I would be more likely to make environmentally conscious decisions."
There are many reasons why it's great (and easy) to donate old clothes. For one thing, it doesn't take as many resources to give those old clothes new life.
Remember those jeans from earlier? It can take more than 1,800 gallons of water to make one new pair. New cotton T-shirt? That can take up to 700 gallons of water — more than the average person drinks in five years. But if you donate an old pair of jeans or a cotton shirt for someone else to buy, that's less of a burden on the planet over time.
And that's just water savings! It takes nine pounds of fossil fuels to make one cotton shirt, so think of all the other resources that reusing saves, too.
All it takes is a little time and understanding to make a world of difference.
In fact, there are things you can do right now to lead the change. For starters, if you have clothes or other household items that you don't want anymore, don't throw them in the trash.
Instead, donate them at nearby donation centers, such as a local Savers thrift store, or donation bins in your community to give these items the second life they deserve and bring someone else joy.
Remember, donating benefits local charitable organizations and the very neighborhood you live in. In fact, your donations turn into funding that fuels these organizations’ missions. So by reusing and recycling locally, you're giving neighbors a chance to put great items to good use.
On top of that, spread the word with family, friends, neighbors, and coworkers to get as many people as possible following suit. That way, the next time someone clears out their closet, they'll remember the road their clothes took to get there — and how they can affect that cycle in a big way.