No Salvation in Salvation Army: High Cost of Cheap Clothing

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Salvation Army

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Doesn’t it feel like you blinked, and the summer’s gone by?

Every year it hurts, but for some reason we don’t expect clothing to have nearly the same type of shelf life as seasons. Despite the millions of dollars, hours and miles that go into making our wardrobe, we sure don’t hang onto much of it long, tossing tees and trousers at the end of each season or at the first mark of a hole.

According to a 2010 national survey in ShopSmart magazine, one in four American women own seven pairs of jeans, but we only wear four of them regularly. (Slate Magazine)

Well I can’t stop shopping, you say; and it’s easy to feel like you’re doing the world a favour by donating your unwanteds, but as Slate Magazine uncovered your local charity store doesn’t want –and probably can’t even fit- your donation under its roof. This article, an excerpt from writer Elizabeth Cline’s book “Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion”, follows Cline to an out of the way Brooklyn Salvation Army where they alone receive 18 tons of clothing every three days. Many of these items still brandish the original tags from whence they came.

One textile recycler, Trans-Americas Trading Co., processes close to 17 million pounds of used clothing a year. (Slate Magazine)

There is an aspect to vintage hunting that’s cute, and one that’s not. Because we’re all tearing away at racks for that one MiuMiu blouse but there are still trillions of tons of textiles that are unfit for hipster re-sell. Where do those go?

Mainly sub-Saharan Africa. But as Cline points out, even they are drowning in our discarded duds.

“As incomes rise in Africa, tastes become more savvy, cheap Chinese imports of new clothes flood those countries, and our own high-quality clothing supply is depleted, it’s foreseeable that the African solution to our overconsumption may come to an end.” –Elizabeth Cline, Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion

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