Where are your clothes REALLY going?

One Friday morning, I was out running errands (or was I trying to find some yard sales?) Either way- I was driving through the center of Georgetown when I noticed a GIANT-HUMUNGOUS heap of trash bags in front of a local charity. [Visualize a pile of clear bags taller than an average person and as long as a card.] The bags were filled with clothing/sheets/fabric as far as I could see- and I remember thinking wow, that is A LOT of stuff. A few hours later I drive back through town, yard sales a bust as it had begun to rain. Retracing my route home I pass and find that those donations are still out by the curb!

It just kept pestering at me... you see Friday also happens to be garbage day.

I decided to call the office of the Amen House and inquire. The director and I spoke for some time, I found out that a local nursing home had donated a massive amount of items to their location. Because 1) they didnt have enough room 2) they have high standards (if items are not in like new condition they will discard them- this is so that "people don't feel degraded") all of these clear bags had been left curbside for the garbage men! I shared some resources for clothing recycling and promised to follow up with more. I was just flabbergasted at the amount of clothing/textiles that were being so easily dumped into the landfill and a little pissed off about it too. When I make a donation I think that its actually being used locally.

The moral of this story- Find out where your donations are actually going.


We have over 2300 in the US and Canada. The items that don’t meet the quality standard are sometimes sold at Goodwill clearance centers, such as outlets or “by the pound” stores. Not all Goodwill headquarters have such centers, but where present, this is a good way to squeeze more value from donations, keep more product from reaching landfills, and fund our job training programs and employment placement services. Any remaining product is then offered for sale to textile recyclers, which extends the life of already manufactured goods.

Some of the used clothes sold to textile recyclers are recycled into rags, carpet fibers and other products. This is an environmentally sound process - we have seen estimates that textile recyclers divert approximately 2.5 billion pounds of used clothes from landfills.

The clothing and shoes that are donated to Planet are resold to international used clothing brokers. The profits derived from these sales are used to fund sustainable development projects in Africa, Asia, & Latin America.

The brokers that buy our clothes actually have sorting facilities. Once they receive a load from us, they sort through clothing. The stained, ripped, or unwearable clothing is sorted out and then it is resold to actual textile recyclers. The textile recyclers then use that material to make shop rags, carpet padding, insulation, and other by-product materials. As you can see, there is an extensive chain of recycling that goes on within this industry.
The Salvation Army
According to the two representatives, they sell the higher quality clothing in their thrift stores. Less desirable but still wearable clothing is baled and shipped around the world to areas in need. If clothing is soiled or completely unwearable, it does end up in the trash. 

What do you do with your unwanted clothing? (Need repurposing inspiration - check out the Trashn2Tees Ultimate Upcycled Tshirt Tutorial List )


  1. Thanks for doing this research, definitely interesting/sad... It'll make me think a little harder when I donate.


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