Why We Should Think Twice Before Donating Old Clothes

by: Lucy Jones | 2 years ago | News

Lifeline’s donation bins are at capacity. Image source.

Charity stores all around the country have stopped accepting donations, saying they simply can't store any more stuff. Lifeline has also asked that people stop dumping clothing outside its overflowing donation bins. The charity is unable to sell garments that have been exposed to the weather and is forced to send them straight to landfill. 

"We collect these donations to raise funds for a great cause to help save lives," Jamie Mackay from Lifeline told ABC News

"Unfortunately, quite often we can't use them because we classify them as contaminated. They've been in the weather, the rain." 

Op shops have been inundated with donations after the Christmas and New Years period, as people get rid of the old to make way for the new. January is always a busy time of year for charity stores, but this year they have received more donations than ever as thousands of Australians KonMari their homes. The Netflix series Tidying Up has inspired Aussies to get rid of any possessions that don't 'spark joy'. This spike in donations has puts even more pressure on charity stores that are already struggling to keep up with the rate at which we buy, use and dispose of stuff.

Broken or otherwise unsellable donations are costing Australian charity stores $13 million a year. According to the National Association of Charitable Recycling Organisations (NACRO), op shops send 60,000 tonnes of unwanted items, including broken appliances and dirty mattresses, to landfill every year. 

"There is a phenomenal amount of stuff and a lot of that is garments [and] textiles," NACRO spokesperson Omer Soker told ABC News late last year. 

"If it was all quality stuff, that would be one thing, but a lot of it is fast fashion. Fast fashion has no intrinsic value in the fibres; it's not designed to last. It really should be called fast-to-landfill fashion, because ultimately that's what it is."

Charity stores are often unable to sell these poor quality garments. This leaves with a huge amount of stock and nowhere to store it. Sustainability consultant Jane Milburn said that people need to do more research before taking all their old possessions straight to the op shop. There are several charity groups that also accept clothing donations like It's in the Bag, which collects old handbags full of sanitary items for underprivileged women, and Dressed for Success, which collects donations of business clothing for women seeking employment.

"I think that's the traditional way that we've recycled clothing and we should send our best stuff there," Milburn said.

But instead of sending everything to op shops, she said we should try to repair or reuse things ourselves. Milburn uses biodegradable clothing as mulch in her garden and has even turned her old jeans into shopping bags. 

"We're realising that we've got to do more recycling for ourselves and reusing and creating," she explained. 

"When you invest a little bit of time, things mean more to you and until you do that, you actually are a bit ruthless with your resources."

Marie Kondo's cleaning method is bringing people face to face with their overconsumption. But we need to be mindful of the impact that our possessions continue to have once they leave our homes. This awareness will keep us from consuming excessively in the future. 

Via ABC News.

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