The Journey of Your Used Clothes: From Donations to a Second Life

Spring-cleaning means donating unwanted clothes, but what happens to them next? Goodwill and Salvation Army sort and resell them, but some end up elsewhere.

As spring arrives and people prepare for their annual purge of unused items, unwanted clothes often top the list of items to donate. Goodwill and the Salvation Army are popular destinations for these donations, with the aim of helping disadvantaged communities. However, just because you donate your clothes doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll end up back in the retail stores.

The process for donating clothes to Goodwill and the Salvation Army involves sorting the items into softlines (textiles) and hardlines (everything else). The donations are then categorized by quality, with rare or designer items set aside for resale online or in stores. The remaining items are sorted into categories suitable for sale in Goodwill’s 3,300 retail stores or are sold at significantly lower prices in their outlet stores.

Despite their efforts, both organizations admit that some items are simply unsuitable for resale and must be discarded. While clothing with minor damage may still be sold at Goodwill’s outlet stores, soiled items are disposed of in local landfills to protect employee and shopper health and safety.

Despite this, Goodwill plays a crucial role in reducing waste by being one of the largest collectors of used goods, promoting reuse and minimizing the amount of items that end up in landfills.