what happens to donated clothesDonating clothes is something that many of us do throughout the year, but the million dollar question remains: what happens to your clothes once they’re donated? Leave it to the intrepid minds at NPR to discover the answer. A recent Parallels story takes a closer look behind the scenes of the clothing donation cycle.

One common misconception? That donated clothing stays local to the area. It might, yet as Jackie Northam reported, organizations like Washington, D.C.-based Martha’s Table only have so much room. At that point, non-profit organizations typically call in a textile recycling company, which usually takes about 80 percent of the donations.

From there, here’s a look at the intended destination for the clothing:

  • 30% of the materials are made into wiping cloths for commercial and industrial use.
  • Approximately 20% of the materials are converted to fibers used in an array of other products, including auto and home insulation, pillow stuffing and carpet padding.
  • And about 45% of clothing is exported to buyers throughout the world.

One revelation that might surprise you? Clothing donation is an incredibly competitive business.

“Items are bought and sold by the pound, and you can literally make or lose a deal over half a cent a pound, quarter of a cent a pound,” says Robert Goode, owner of Mac Recyling, in an NPR interview.

And just as product quality and compliance issues are an important part of the promotional products industry, they’re an increasingly important factor in clothing donations, too.

“[Jackie] King [Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles] executive director, says textile recyclers are still finding strong demand for used clothing,” writes Northam. “But she says selling cheap garments, like those made in Bangladesh, is becoming increasingly difficult.”

King shared another particularly sobering statistic. About 85 percent of all clothing sold each year ends up in a landfill. The solution? Donate!

Were you surprised at the stats revealed in the NPR story? And did it change your mind about how much clothing you’ll donate this year?

Image: jdaviddean via Compfight cc