We don’t think about our impact when throwing away clothes. Why should we? Charities deal with them. Do they?

Picture the scene… You are at home, relaxing, maybe watching TV, the doorbell rings and you go to answer it. A handful of your friends are outside, all with two large bin bags, full to bursting point. They invite themselves in, go through to your nice and tidy living room and empty the contents of their bags over your floor. They leave and return with more bags and do the same. Then more and more and more and more until you cannot see the floor and now your whole room is a sea of old clothes. Your lovely living room now stinks with old stale clothes and bin bags. Not cool, right?  Nightmare situation that would never happen, right? Wrong. What do you think about your impact?

This is what our actions do to Africa every single day.

Did you know that the clothes you take to the skip for recycling and those you hand in to charity shops end up in an African landfill?

Until researching this, neither did I.

We buy what we don’t need

We buy A LOT of clothes. The UK is one of the worst offenders for this in Europe.

We buy more than we need. We buy cheap, low quality and in bulk.

Our clothes are worn only a handful of times. They spend most of their lives in the dark recesses of our wardrobes, awaiting our annual spring clean.

We think a charity shop donation is the right thing to do. We leave bags outside overnight, even when they have a sign saying “do not leave bags outside overnight”!

Is this being charitable, is this really just fly-tipping, or is it ignorance? Either way, we don’t think about our impact.

Fast fashion isn’t good enough

We have spoken to Edinburgh charities, with anecdotes of dirty underwear included in some donations, clothing with holes and stains, all of which are unsuitable and cannot be sold.

They are swamped with sub-standard products and nothing from fast-fashion is good enough. 

The 20% remaining is sold at deflated prices. We think all clothes should be at fast-fashion prices as we like cheap. We want everything for nothing. It’s a very selfish attitude. Would you give something away for next to nothing? No, you wouldn’t, but we’re a one-way society.

Where does it all go?

They are bought from charities by textile waste collectors (approximately £0.35/kg), collected along with all the clothing from the Council recycling centres.

Nathan’s Wastesavers collect for the Edinburgh area and we will focus the rest of this article on them.

Nathan’s collect the textiles and sort them at their processing centre, picking anything of value to sell themselves, with the remainder split between ‘straight to landfill/incineration and ‘export’.

Africa, Eastern Europe and Asia.

It’s quite a setup. In 2018 Nathan’s made £11.7million from Africa and £20.8million from Eastern Europe. This information is freely available at Companies House.

The value of the stock has decreased over the last few years, therefore we send more to counteract this. 

More rubbish and more fast fashion. More sub-standard product and more landfill.

ITV News did a great piece on this in February 2020, which focussed on the problem in Ghana.

It is not OK to send our waste overseas, nor is it OK that our fast-fashion buys will be landfill there when our great-grandchildren are born.

Added to that our Council takes no responsibility for any of this? Do we think about our impact?

It is fine as long as it’s not in your living room. Right?

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