A Metro Vancouver staff report answers what many are probably asking when they part with their unwanted clothes.
Karen Storry, senior project engineer with the regional government’s solid waste services, details where clothing donations given to thrift shops, dropped at collection bins, or picked up by charities end up.
According to Storry, around 20 percent to 25 percent of donations are sold at local thrift stores.
The rest goes elsewhere.
“What doesn’t sell locally is sold to a local used clothing broker, where clothing is sorted into several categories for reuse based on demand from global second-hand markets,” Storry writes in her report to the zero waste committee of Metro Vancouver.
Not everything is shipped out to other countries.
Storry notes that around 50 percent of clothing that go to brokers are sent to used clothing markets abroad.
Twenty percent become wiper rags for industrial cleaning purposes, and another 20 percent are transformed into insulation and emergency blankets.
The remaining 10 percent end up as garbage.
Not all of the clothes offered at thrift stores are bought.
“A review of clothing waste loads arriving at regional disposal facilities revealed that some disposed clothing is from thrift stores and used clothing brokers, suggesting that there are no viable endmarkets for it,” Storry wrote.
Storry also noted that although residents can swap, sell or donate unwanted clothing, a lot of clothes are simply thrown away.
According to Storry, around 20,000 tons of clothing waste are disposed in the Lower Mainland each year.
Storry pointed out that residents in the region throw out an average of eight kilograms of clothing per person every year.
According to Storry, Metro Vancouver is working with different partners to reduce clothing waste.
A disposal ban is out of the question.
Storry explained that a ban would “not be feasible in the short-term as recycling options were limited and a ban could result in unreasonable burdens to charitable organizations and re-use businesses”.More