The Guardian tries to find out by following a blouse donated in the UK from donor to recipient. It turns out that, “Only about 10-20% of the clothes collected in charity shops are sold in Britain to be worn again.” Most of the clothes are sold to specialist for-profit clothing recyclers who pay £100 a year for the right to give their clothing bins a charity logo. The recyclers in turn sell the clothing on to countries like Zambia, where it provides the basis of a local industry (again for-profit) that – arguably – has a devastating impact on domestic clothing suppliers. In the end, shirts get sold for £1.50 or less apiece – a day’s salary in Zambia.
As you can see I find this state of affairs disturbing – the Guardian’s writer is less more optimistic. I suppose I will continue to give away surplus clothing – it is better that it be used than thrown away. But I would like to see charities paid a lot more than £100 a year by companies using their good name to make profits.