Your favourite pair of jeans are now too tight for you and you just can’t let go – or, you’ve worn this beautiful statement dress for an occasion, but now you’ll never be able to wear it again, because your photos are all over social media!

Have you considered that instead of letting these clothes just lie for years on end in your wardrobe, you could pass them on for someone else to enjoy ? Before throwing them out either, does it cross your mind that somebody somewhere would be able to enjoy it just as much as you did?

Pre-loved or second-hand clothing is the clothing that individuals no longer want or need; and gets recycled back into our system in the way of thrift, vintage or donation stores, to be given away or resold to others.

The reality is that about 85% of all clothing that gets thrown away sits in landfills, whereas ±95% of those items are completely recyclable. The majority of this clothing is also still in perfect condition, maybe worn once or twice, thanks to the fast fashion “waste couture” legacy of our current generation.

As consumers, we are encouraging the production of more clothing, leading to the same rubbish dump destiny instead of seeking the sustainable route.

Where Can We Find Second-Hand Clothing?

There is an entire side multi-billion-dollar industry that developed out of recycling second-hand apparel. Due to the billions of tonnes of clothing being tossed away each year, this should come to no surprise. The 15% of clothing that is recycled goes to any of the following places for redistribution:

NGOs – non-profit, non-government organisations that are usually aiding some form of charity. Sometimes NGOs have a main focus on recycling clothing or helping the poor by donating these clothes to them.

Textile Recyclers – these can also be NGOs, companies or governments that come in to take away excess second-hand clothing goods and donations to be resold to thrift stores and antique shops, as well as on a global scale.

Thrift Stores – these are stores that deal in second hand-clothing or goods and are also commonly known as charity shops, op shops or hospice shops. They are open to donations and whatever they cannot fit or sell in their premises often goes to textile recyclers for global redistribution. Also, many are non-profit and the money they make off second-hand clothing often goes to charities or some positive initiative.

Vintage Clothing Stores – these are stores that deal in vintage wear and clothing likely from before our time. These stores are often the biggest treat to somebody looking for something unique to wear, offering a variety of timelessly fashionable apparel items.

Donations & Local Sales – sometimes people are giving away their clothing that they do not want anymore to locals or family members. Other members of your local community may be attempting to sell their second-hand clothing locally, in a yard sale or at a market. Local community facebook pages and similar social media are used to buy and sell second-hand goods.

Why is it Important to Support the Redistribution of Pre-loved Clothing?

Many individuals feel that buying second-hand clothing is beneath them, why should they want to wear somebody else’s leftovers? There are a few very good reasons you should want to support the recycling and redistribution of second-hand clothing:

  • 1. A study done more than a decade ago proved that 85% of women have items in their wardrobes that don’t fit or that they don’t wear. In the UK, statistics reveal that women spend about 1000 Pounds per year on clothing, having ±100 items in their wardrobes.

    However, they wear only ±30 items, on average for 12 years at a time, ignoring the rest completely. That means 70% of clothing is wasted on average, never worn until the day it gets discarded – the result of impulse buying and fast fashion.

  • 2. The environmental & human health damages caused by textile industry operations with regards to the creation of new clothing.

    Included but not limited to the pollution of water bodies with heavy metals, toxic air pollution contributing to climate change and hazardous chemical wastes like bleach that also just get tossed out, destroying whole ecosystems.

  • 3. The fact that most of our clothing is not natural and not safe or able to biodegrade naturally. This further pollutes with ozone-destroying methane emissions, when clothing sits in landfill sites or get incinerated, and the leaching out of chemicals into surface and ground water, allowing more chemicals to circulate into acid rain. Daily in Hong Kong alone, 253 tonnes of fabric are sent to the landfill!
  • 4. Sweatshop conditions and hazardous working environments harm many individuals all year round and are often in violation of human rights.
  • 5. Aside from the benefits of helping to prevent environmental and human abuses, second-hand clothing is also usually more affordable for us.

Second-Hand As Part of A Solution To Excess Production

Each year, hundreds of billions of dollars are spent on the production and exporting of new clothing.

With 85% being thrown away and 95% of that able to be recycled, we have the potential to reduce the world’s textile waste down to 5% or less.

Production of new clothes takes a heavy toll on the environment, with 1kg of cotton consuming up to 20 000 litres of fresh water. If every single person of all the 7.5 billion humans on Earth bought one single preloved wool item this year, it would save a minimum of 200 billion litres of drinking water and prevent 56 000 tonnes of dye from leaching back into the environment. Not only does buying second-hand save our planet from harm, but it also saves us from 50-90% of the items original price, allowing us to spend more if we so desire.

By investing ourselves in concepts such as preloved clothing, we can slowly begin to reclaim the Earth from industrial damages and work towards an ultimately sustainable future.