"Reincarnating" Your Clothing for a Triple Play

When you donate a used shirt you set many possibilities in motion. Your shirt can be "reincarnated" as someone's new prized possession or return to life as the insulation in your walls, padding under your carpet, paper for your printer, stuffing for your couch, or even as a new shirt. Recycling truly has multiple benefits. The synergy of the Planet Aid recycling model expands these possibilities, creating a unique "win-win-win" scenario. Here's how the "triple win" works.

Earthly benefits

By donating a shirt, you remove it from going straight to what is known as the "solid waste stream." This is the universal dumping ground for items we don't recycle. Our solid waste usually winds up in one of two places. It gets buried in a landfill, which can contaminate soil and groundwater, consume valuable land, and emit some horrific odors.

Alternatively, your old clothes are torched in a huge incinerator that gives off microscopic particles that we breathe, and spews out clouds of greenhouse gases that heat and clog the atmosphere.

Neither option is good for us or our planet. By recycling, two good things happen. We eliminate the need to produce a new item, and we remove an item from going to the solid waste stream. Win # 1 is thus all about protecting the environment and reducing the wear and tear on Mother Earth.

Clothes = jobs = income

Planet Aid, like all other clothes collection charities, sells the used clothing it collects. That is simply how it's done. Moreover, only a fraction, about 20 percent, of all donated clothing in the U.S. is actually sold in thrift stores. The rest is sold to wholesale recyclers. The recyclers either grade and sort the clothes first, or ship them "as is" overseas. Along the way, lower grade clothes are made into other materials at processing plants that employ thousands around the world. The best garments may wind up in high-end boutiques or vintage shops. Used clothing shipments are routed all over the globe, but mainly to lesser-developed countries.

After shipping, a half-ton bale of used clothing may change hands multiple times as it is sold and re-bought and parceled out into smaller bundles. A 100-pound bale, for example, might be bought by a single mother in Guatemala. In a small stall in the market of her village, she resells your donated clothes. A shirt or pair of jeans you bought new for $40 might sell for a few cents or a couple of dollars. The single mom makes a small profit to buy other necessities like food or medicine.

This is where the "reincarnation" of your donated clothes happens again. Something that was considered of little value when donated, now has recaptured worth and a new life.

This is Win #2 - used clothes provide an income or a job opportunity for the people who handle what you put in a Planet Aid bin. This same scenario is repeated hundreds of thousands of times every day around the world. The sale and resale of used clothing has created a complex commercial network that benefits many thousands of enterprises, large and small.

Your donations spread over three continents

Win #3 occurs when Planet Aid uses the funds from clothing sales to pay for aid programs. Dollars raised from your donation may help train much-needed primary school teachers in Angola, where student to teacher ratios may be as high as 70 to 1.

Support may go to an Academy for Working Children in India. These are schools specifically for young children who have little choice but to work to help support their families.

Child Aid developmet programs receive Planet Aid support to establish clean water supplies and to improve hygiene and reduce water-related infections.

Planet Aid also supports several successful programs that aid smallholder farmers in developing nations—many of whom are women—so they can improve their harvests, conserve water resources, and increase their income.

Other Planet Aid-supported programs help control the spread of HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases.

The simple act of donating

Last year alone, Planet Aid provided $12 million in funding or in-kind gifts (from the sale of used clothes and grant support) to international aid programs in 15 countries. Since Planet Aid started in 1997, it has contributed over $70 million to projects on three continents.

This happened because people like you decided to donate your used clothing rather than throw it away. One simple act results in multiple benefits for many all over the world. Be an active recycler and frequent clothes donor. Be a champion of the "win-win-win" global recycling model.

It's a Big Job and We All Have to Do It

When Planet Aid and other charities sell the donated clothes they collect, they receive only a few hundred dollars per ton. In short, it takes a lot of used clothing to raise just a little money. However, there is no shortage of used garments in the U.S. Several billion pounds of unwanted textiles are produced annually, but only 15 percent of this vast quantity is recycled. Much more effort is needed to save more textiles from unnecessary disposal. Clearly, we must work harder to make it easier to recycle.