Charity shops are the mainstay of clothes donations. It may have worked 30 years ago but that was before fast fashion. Does it still work?

Spring cleaning; a fresh start; making room for new stuff; wanting to do a good thing – there are many reasons why we donate to charity shops and, on the whole, your donations are more than welcome.
Of course they are welcome. Charity shops run on tight margins, usually with volunteer workers and hoping for that nugget of quality within the bin bags dropped on them. Remember that charity begins at home.

You bag up all the unwanted items you have and drop them off at the nearest charity shop. They’ll appreciate that, right? 

A few questions for you…

  1. What’s in the bag?
  2. You may not want it, but would you give it to a friend?
  3. Have you washed it, or just bagged it up? 

Make sure it’s clean

Have you just gathered up anything and everything? Have you checked for holes, for stains and other such delights? You may not want it anymore, but would you give it to a friend or family? Fairly anonymous donations should not mean any old crap as an excuse to empty your home. Have you seen an old stained top in the charity shop window? No? Imagine that…

Finally, have you washed it?

This is a biggy as most people would assume the charity shop will wash it before putting it on display. The small shop space is just a front for a massive laundrette, hidden away behind Mildred on the till, as they industrially wash and dry everything they receive, whilst at the same time, turning a profit.

Sorry to burst your bubble but the washing of these clothes is down to you.

Don’t leave bags outside

Charity shops do not have the time, the space, nor the money to carry out this level of service. Even with clear signs saying “DO NOT LEAVE BAGS OUTSIDE” people still leave bags outside. These bags CANNOT be taken in, or used, so they have to be dumped.

The remainder of what they have will be a mixed bunch of all of the above. Dirty; holes; stains with occasional gems and these will be displayed in the shop.

Charity shop will still have to artificially DEFLATE their prices.

This is due to fast fashion’s ridiculously low prices and the public’s displaced notion that these reflect any sort of reality. In the end the charity doesn’t make as much as it could.

80% is waste

A typical charity will be able to display around 20% of what is donated. The rest is dumped (basically fly-tipping) or stained/torn, or fast fashion and therefore substandard.

This is 80% of what they get. EIGHTY PERCENT WASTE.

Textile waste collectors will buy this from the charity, usually for around £0.35/kg and then sell this to African traders at £1.50/kg. That’s 400% profit. It’s worth noting that two pairs of average fast fashion jeans weigh about 1kg, so that’s 35p for two pairs of jeans! If our cast-offs are not good enough for charities, why will they be good enough in Africa?

We think we are doing the right thing, but we are treating charities as our personal dumping ground, using a textile collection system that is not fit for purpose anymore.

Charity begins at home, they say.

Maybe, before dropping that bag off, have a think about what you have in it and how you would feel if they sifted through your ‘donation’ in the shop?

If you truly want to help their cause, give them the best you have, not the worst.

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