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Clothing donations: Where do they really go?

October 19, 2012
tags:#Africa, #box, #charities, #clothes, #clothing, #container, #Kleidungskontainer, #Nigeria, #second hand
by:Sara Jabril
"Should I put unwanted clothes of mine in a second-hand clothes container?" Whether you have grown out of or fallen out of love with items in your wardrobe, this is a question many people ask themselves. For a long time, second-hand clothing containers were a popular way for Westerners to dispose of old garments in a seemingly charitable fashion.

In recent years, however, troubling reports from developing countries have cast doubts over the effectiveness and benefits of 'mindlessly' giving away clothes to charity.  As the shipping containers destined mostly for poorer countries rise in number, the local textile industries are cumbling.

As fairplanet reported in September, the latest news comes from Nigeria, where Western donations are largely being sold instead of distributed for free as intended. Of course this is extremely damaging to the few manufacturers left in Nigeria, with most of its clothing industry already being in shambles. Incredibly low prices are at the heart of the problem. Local traders are able to sell the donated clothes at a much lower price than the ones that were manufactured within the country.

Unfortunately, identifying the weak link in the chain remains a problem as well. Local traders in African countries are usually very reluctant to disclose where they have received the clothes from. More precisely, from the donation containers to the clothing seller on Nigeria's streets: at which junction do things go wrong?

And this is not all. Many second-hand or vintage shops in Western countries are part of this highly profitable underground business. What is intended as a donation to your local donation box, often ends up being sold in second-hand shops in your home country. Again, it usually remains a mystery where exactly the stock in these shops originates from.

Therefore, people are advised to research possible alternatives before giving away unwanted clothing items by means of donation containers. If you are currently thinking about donating clothes, it would be best to stick to charities that have a reputation of being respectable and trustworthy. If in doubt, take a few minutes to get some information on the charity or store you have in mind online.

Picture: WikiCommons via Ton Rulkens

Article written by:
sara jabril
Sara Jabril