The Life Cycle of Secondhand Clothing Explained

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When it’s time to update your closet, you may get rid of some items while planning to add a few more. But what really happens to your clothes once you’ve decided to donate them?

Let’s get a behind-the-scenes look into the life cycle of secondhand clothing to gain more insight as to what occurs inside and outside secondhand shops.

Thrift Store

When you take your clothes to the donation area of a thrift store, the employees will begin to sift through them while adhering to strict quality guidelines. If the clothes pass inspection, the employees will place them on the selling floor and sell them at a discounted price.

However, if the clothing items do not pass inspection, they enter the export process, which we will discuss next.

International Export

During the export process, clothing that didn’t make it into physical stores goes through a similar sifting process to be graded based on quality, sustainability, and condition. Most export companies grade the clothing based on a grading system—the highest grade (A) is assigned to items that can be sold at a higher price internationally.

Materials Are Broken Down

Clothing that rates low on the grading scale can either be sent to a landfill or broken down to pull its materials out for other uses, depending on the clothing material. Many materials contain fibers that can be broken down with ease, whereas others may cause difficulty. These raw materials can then be recycled and sold as repurposed items. For example, if a company decides to buy used t-shirts in bulk, they may be assisting the secondhand community and promoting the reduce, reuse, recycle mission.

Secondhand shopping can greatly benefit your wallet, the community, and the environment you live in. It’s important to do your research before donating secondhand items to ensure your items can be utilized for other purposes rather than going into the landfill.

The life cycle of secondhand clothing is an important aspect of how our communities function and work together to improve our planet.