Donating to Goodwill? Here’s Some Things You Should Know

You’ve been reading our articles, checking out our Facebook posts, decluttering your life and now you’re the proud owner of several bags of clothes and other items that you’re no longer in need of.

We hope this is your one big purge, and we’re so proud of you.

But now what? Well, this isn’t the first time you’ve let older items go. It’s simple. You just drop them off at your local Goodwill, right?

Well, let’s talk about that. You’re probably aware that Goodwill is one of the largest collectors of donated clothing. You probably say “Goodwill” as a general name for any donation center. The same way you’ll say Kleenex for tissue. They’ve done a great job marketing themselves into the American lexicon.

But with great donation power, comes great responsibility. And here is where Goodwill fails. Let’s talk about why.

First off, we’re aware Goodwill does some very good things. Over 80% of their revenue goes to fund employment and training programs for the disabled. It’s not making CEOs rich or funding political parties. So there’s that.

But there’s a bigger part to the picture. Goodwill has a process for handling your clothing. First, they separate the good from the bad. The sellable from the stained, mildewed, and torn. Fashion isn’t the concern here, just if it’s wearable or not. From there, it’s out to be sold.

Goodwill has a 30-day policy for items on the sales floor. If they sit stale, they head to a Goodwill Outlet store. From here, items sell for crazy low prices. Perhaps one of the best 99 cent sweaters you’ll find in a lifetime.

From there, if that sweater just doesn’t cut it, it goes to a Goodwill auction. Huge bins of clothing that sell for as little as $35. Who knows what you’re getting there, but if you’re buying donated items in bulk, you just might not care.

So that didn’t work? Sweater still didn’t sell? Now it’s sent off to one of many textile recycling centers across the US and even abroad. The US textile centers will cut the clothing into rags or filling for furniture cushions. That sweater has been reincarnated into the back of a couch. It’s found a new purpose in life.

Unless… it’s in the 5% of donated clothing that makes it to a landfill. 5% doesn’t sound terrible, but it does add up to 12 million tons of textile waste in the U.S. alone. That’s a lot of bell bottoms.

But that’s not where we’re going with this. We want to talk about what’s shipped overseas and the waves that’s causing.

Let’s talk about a location like Africa. On average they can import over $300 million worth of secondhand clothing from the U.S. and other countries. Because of this, locals can buy clothing at rock bottom prices. It’s not uncommon for a consumer to find a pair of jeans for under $2. That sounds pretty amazing, right?

Not if you’re a clothing manufacturer.

A $2 pair of jeans is about 5-10% of what a new pair of jeans could cost there. The U.S. is devastating the local clothing industry.

Uganda alone imported over 1200 tons of worn clothing and other items from the U.S. last year making secondhand garments 81 percent of all clothing purchases there.

You hear the voices about other countries taking jobs away from Americans, apparently we don’t like to look at it from the other side.

We’re not aiming to get political or shame you. We’re here to inform you and offer other solutions with your donatable items.

Consider handing them down to friends or family. You can sell them online. Consign them. You can research small donation services and see what their end game is.

But the greatest tool you can learn is to be mindful of your shopping habits. Think of the things you’re donating that you’ve worn twice. Or sometimes, never. Math is math. The less you purchase, the less you donate. It’s a cycle you can quickly break.

Purging shouldn’t be a habit. After you gain control of your clutter the first time, it should be easy to maintain. But assuming this was the big one, there’s a chance you’ve been driving around with a bag of clothing in the back of your car for a bit. Let today be the day they find some good.