Highlighting the growth of fast fashion – at least in the form of increasing volumes of cheap and disposable clothing – TRAID’s warehouse in London was receiving around 3,000 tonnes of donated clothes every year before coronavirus hit.
“We’re sorting through more volume and finding less that can go into our shops than a few years ago,” said Leigh McAlea, head of communications at TRAID, the United Kingdom-based clothes charity that aims to reduce the environmental and social impact of the fashion industry by encouraging people to shop second-hand.
“We’re seeing a lot of fast fashion items, a lot of clothes that have been barely worn or still have tags on. Items that go into our 12 charity shops have to be good enough quality to resell, whether they’re Primark or Prada. We want to encourage people to buy better quality and then donate items when they have finished with them,” McAlea told Herald Eye News UK.
But waste is a problem throughout the fashion supply chain, with significant numbers of garments never even making it to the shop floor. It’s an issue that has been brought into even sharper focus by the coronavirus pandemic.
According to the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Assocation, the COVID-19 crisis has already led to the suspension or cancellation of orders for 982 million items of clothing, worth an estimated $3.18bn.
The crisis highlights the need for solutions to unwanted textiles, whether new or worn.
“We have been collecting Hong Kong’s unwanted clothing for the past eight years, and we’re now redistributing to around 20 charities,” said Hannah Lane, director of partnerships and communications at Redress, a Hong Kong-based sustainable fashion NGO.
“We regularly receive garments that are in poor condition because of their low quality. Around 15 percent of what we collect cannot be reused, and mostly has to be downcycled into an item of lower quality – or sent to landfill.”