“Baled” Clothes Captured in Colorful Photos
The artist’s eye can find beauty almost anywhere, even in unwanted things. A vivid example is the photo project called "Baled Photographs of America’s Recyclables". In this project, photographer Wesley Law, focuses his lens on bundles of clothes at Goodwill in St. Louis that have been readied for shipment to the developing world.
Law got the idea for the project in talking with a friend who works as a sorter at Goodwill. He described the massive recycling facilities that process and ship clothing that is left over after the best items have been sold in Goodwill’s retail shops.
The average American discards 4.34 pounds of garbage each day. The majority of which ends up in a landfill or gets shipped overseas. The vast unknown quantities not sold were baled and sent away. It is the products of our everyday lives, so easily disposed of, that I am concerned with in these images…. After being processed in the United States by various non-profit industries, they leave and are shipped to parts of the country and the world. It is my hope to eventually be able to document their entire journey, traveling to and witnessing their eventual reincarnation.
—Wesley Law, from his artist’s statement
So why are massive quantities of clothing being baled? Baling makes it easier to handle and ship the clothes from the warehouse to the final destination. Planet Aid, like Goodwill, collects the donated bags that were placed in our bins and loads them, as is, into our baling machine. The baling machine compresses and wraps the clothes in a protective cloth or plastic wrapper and straps them tightly together into a large package that weighs approximately 1,000 pounds. Bales are loaded into trailers for domestic buyers or in shipping containers for overseas customers.
Many charities, whether local or national, end up selling most of what they collect to wholesalers. The reason is simple: they can’t sell or give away enough of the volume they gather (only 20% of used clothing is sold in thrift stores). In fact, used textiles rank as the eighth-largest U.S. export and the demand is very high for used clothing in developing countries.
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