How donated clothes are sorted and reused

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Ever wondered where your old and used clothing goes after it's thrown into a donation bin? Turns out there are entire industries that rely on the recycling and resale of your old garments.

Our closets are getting fuller and fuller, but we’re throwing out clothes at a faster rate too. The biggest culprit is fast fashion, combined with our addiction to consume. “We’ve just got into the cycle of excessive availability at really low prices,” said Kate Black, author of Magnifeco: Your Head-to-Toe Guide to Ethical Fashion and Non-Toxic Beauty.

“Fast fashion” is the trendy clothing dropping in stores and online that are coming to us cheaper, faster and sooner than ever before. Instead of following seasons, the business model for brands is to play a volume game and throw products into stores to see what will take off.

Ayesha Barenblat, the founder and president at Remake, says fast fashion is a 15- to 20-year phenomenon that we’re looking at. Some of the ramifications of fast fashion, both on human lives as well as on the planet, are just starting to be clear to us.

What are some environmental impacts?

The number of new clothes being produced means stress on the environment, polluting the waters with microfibres and dyes. It takes 2,700 litres of water to make one cotton T-shirt — that’s how much water a person drinks in two-and-half years of their life.

From a climate standpoint, textile production is very carbon intensive and clothing production emits more greenhouse gases than shipping and aviation combined, Barenblat adds.

Well, what about textile waste — clothes that are simply thrown into the trash or items that didn’t get a second life? These textiles pollute groundwater, wreak havoc on the air when incinerated and contribute to high levels of methane being released as they slowly decompose.

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