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A Behind the Scenes Look at what happens to Clothes at Thrift Stores

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Good job on finally cleaning your closet, separating your clothes and deciding to donate them. There’s been a lot of talk about whether donating clothes is as helpful as we had presumed but the truth is, if we donate clothes responsibly, we can help out a lot of people who need them desperately.

 

When you drop off bagfuls of used-clothes at the thrift store, they may not be of use to you anymore but their journey has just begun…

 

Let the sorting begin

The second life of donated used-clothes and shoes begins with “sorting”. All the used-goods you donate to the thrift store are pulled out of bags and sorted into categories such as trousers, tops, stuffed toys, belts, etc. There’s no attention to detail, at this stage the clothes are simply divided and put into large bins. Unless there’s something that’s clearly damaged and has no use, all goods will be sorted.

 

Once the bins are full, workers donning gloves do a deep dive into the binned goods. Items are pulled out of the clothes and are carefully inspected. The workers check for quality and whether the clothes can be sold or not. Clothes with visible holes, stains, strange odors and broken zippers won’t make the cut.

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The rest of the clothes are placed into sturdy hanging racks that can carry 90 items at a time. Larger thrift stores can hang more than 2000 new items a day!

 

The clothes that don’t sell

Clothes that don’t sell are placed in big cartons which are sold to donation companies and second-hand clothing traders. Recycling companies put the cartons of donated clothes into baling machines which work similarly to trash compactors. They flatten the boxes and its contents so they can easily be piled on top of each other without taking space.

 

Items that are broken or damaged beyond repairs are either recycled into mixed-rags or are dumped into landfills. The goal of textile recycling firms is to recycle as much as they can minimize the amount of stuff that is dumped into landfills.

 

Exporting overseas

The rest of the unsold clothes are usually exported overseas. Importers of second-hand clothing purchase bales of clothes based on their weight. The clothes are then taken out their bales and displayed in second-hand clothing markets in places like Africa, South Asia and Eastern Europe.

 

Whitehouse & Shapiro purchases thrift store excess and credential clothing from around the country and exports them to foreign markets. Cotton sweaters are sold off to trusted partners in Pakistan, vintage clothing is sold to importers in Japan, winter clothing is exported to Eastern European countries while cotton T-shirts and baby clothes are sold to partners in Africa.

 

If you sell thrift store excess or credential clothing, contact us or head over to our office in Baltimore, Maryland.