The Cycle Of Secondhand Fashion – What Happens to Our Unwanted Clothes?

In my precedent piece, I covered the two major problems we’re seeing in the secondary industriousness now (that we’ve full control over). Now it’s time to understand the travel of secondhand clothes post-export the salvage demand.

Where the salvage market thrives is within developing countries that are willing to take in millions of tonnes of “stuff” every year via shipping containers. These items go for resale in street markets and usually small shops run by marginalized communities. Although I must note that with secondhand trending, we’re actually seeing a lot more privileged communities proudly representing and selling more upscale, secondhand finds.

To give you an accessible understanding of the passage of your contributed raiment, let me tell you about that old sweater you contributed three epochs ago in North America and how it ended up in India

You loved that sweater. You wore it every week. But after multitudinous months of washing, the color started to fade. The impressed impresa on the front began to chop. You upgraded with a new sweater and discarded the old one. Twenty times ago, you would have probably mended the sweater, but now sweaters are made fragmentary-assed (that 100 cotton sweater ain’t 100 pieces of cotton presently!). It’s much handier, and yea more affordable for outside, to just replace everything.

After all, the three R’s—Reduce, reuse, recycle—strategically place “recycle” as the last R.

Nobody wants to feel shitty about unmerciful buying and replacing old points with new points so fast. Recycling was cooked to help you feel less shamefaced about not sticking to the “ reduce” and “ misuse” stereotypes of the three Rs.

It’s funny how even a sustainable movement has its loopholes.

So, you dropped that sweater off at a skimping shop. It got a fresh new hanger, a shining price ticket, and was vended on a wearables rack. It sat for weeks, possibly months until the store had blinked it as far as it could before transporting it on its succeeding trip to wax a rag or be transported out to the salvage request across Asia or Africa.

“ Much 30 percent of the fabrics recovered for recycling in the United States are converted to wiping rags, according to Secondary Tackle and Recycled Fabrics, aU.S.- rested trade association. (Secondhand Trip in the New Global Garage Transaction by Adam Minter)

That means the other 70% of textiles are shipped out to developing countries to enter the salvage market or are dumped into landfills.


So, how do sellers and entrepreneurs get their hands on these fresh “new” finds as they come into port?

They gamble on them.

Really! Unless you are running a corporation—a legal one, that is— you are bidding on shipping containers coming in from the West and China (as the world’s fifth-biggest exporter of used clothing), and praying it’s filled with goods that you can sell at a decent price in the local markets.

Why I’ve specifically mentioned a “ legal” pot is because multitudinous developing countries have strict laws and regulations on the import of used goods, like India. In some countries, like Nigeria, it’s illegal. Yet, the salvage request finds ways to thrive regardless of restrictions. And in countries with such a large population, especially in lower-income communities, the salvage request has numerous loopholes that make it an easy cash cow for things and families in need. For specimen, numerous Nigerians will secure secondary points from bordering countries without strict secondary laws, similar as Togo, and bring them back home to vend at hefty prices.

In India, we see the transaction of secondary points throughout, from Mall Road in Manali to Chor Bazaar in Mumbai. We see entrepreneurs, introducers, and realities mending, repairing, and upcycling. As a historically resourceful country, India seems like the everyday place to export unwanted fabrics. Yea the recycled yarn sedulity is huge!

On top of the sustainable troubles before in place within India, we’re also seeing a rise in foreign sightseers buying secondary particulars and bringing their purchases back to where they once came.

Notwithstanding, do note that paramount particulars that end up in India were also made in India, along with Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Cambodia ( hence completing a full cycle).

But here’s the thing—in fast-paced, growing developing countries like India, the number of people part of the middle-class is rising every day. Although we should be celebrating this growth, it does pose a problem for the already overwhelming secondhand and salvage markets.

Clothing is being made and consumed fleetly than ever anteriorly. Developing countries that have historically been “ ditching grounds” for discarded threads from the West are now growing overcrowded with their own waste.

So, what do we do with all the textile waste generated by the growing, global middle-class?

How do we complete the cycle of secondhand fashion without continually harming our environment in both the West and the East?

What big changes are we, the consumers, responsible for compared to the big production guys at the top of the industry?

Honestly, we have to take the lead on everything. 

We have to hold everyone accountable.
We have to use our voices.
We have to vote with our dollars.
We have to support local, sustainable, slow, and truly circular fashion movements.

There’s no going back to “fix” the damage that has been done. All we can do is continue to spread awareness, share education, and help consumers stuck in the loop realize they have been looped. Marketing plays a huge role in this as well and YOU have the power to call it out.

There’s no going back to “ fix” the damage that has been done. All we can do is continue to spread cognizance, share education, and help consumers stuck in the circle realize they’ve been coiled. Marketing plays a huge function in this as well and YOU have the power to call it out.

When it comes to “needing” new items, secondhand is 100 percent the way to go, but it’s also important that you consider the journey of each item you bring into and remove from your home.

To create a truly cyclical fashion industry, we have to buy based on our values, our true “needs”. If a sustainable world is what we want to live in, we need to make smarter buying decisions that align with manifesting our environments. 

The majority of consumers do not know, understand, or even pause to think about the journey of the story of their clothing.

Conscious living starts from the inside out. If consumers are just looping and looping and looping, only something drastic, influenced by their consumer decisions, will make them stop in their tracks (and unfortunately, those drastic incidents usually look like the Rana Plaza Disaster).

Secondhand clothing and recycling can’t really heal our planet, but with a focus on reducing and reusing, we can see a larger impact within the industry. In fact, we’re already seeing it. 

To amplify it, continue your research.

Continue sharing the voices of leaders in the industry.
Continue to support local and share online platforms where consumers can access swaps and secondhand alternatives.

And of course, keep yourself in check. You aren’t just a consumer. You’re a conscious being that has the power to disrupt.

So, go forth and help us lead the way.

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