Exportation of second hand textiles is on the rise.
Since 2000, textile exports have tripled.
In the chart above, the light blue represents good clothing and the dark blue represents clothes and textiles that are rags or complete garbage. Globally we are exporting billions of Kilograms of textiles.
That is a lot of textiles and clothing!
The chart above is showing the numbers for exportation in the UK.
The light blue #6309 represents good clothing that can still be resold and re-worn, and the grey #6310 represents clothing that are rags or complete garbage.
Garbage textiles being exported is higher than the good textiles being exported. This is an example of shipping one countries waste for another country to deal with. According to what is known in the industry 20%-50% of all the Textile bales being exported is waste. To know more exact numbers more data is required on the ground level and systems would have to be put in place to track this. (I will look into this further and see if I can find any companies or organizations who are tracking this.)
The UK, Asia, and North America are the top 3 textile exporters in the world. It has become very common in North America, and European countries to donate to thrift stores and non profits when an article of clothing is no longer desired.
When we take clothing to a thrift larger store chain only 30% of what they receive ends up on the sales floor, the other 70% is exported. And what does not sell from the sales floor is also exported.
Since 2019 North America fell out of the ranking for countries that received textile exports. Africa, Asia, and Europe are where most textile exports are being received.
This graph shows where textiles are being exported to by the millions of Kilograms. This data shows countries that receive these exports. Countries like Kenya and Chile and many others are in the Other Category.
The high volume of textile exportation and textiles ending up in textile mountains has been generating more discussions and actions towards reducing this globally.
Textile Exportation is a very complex global system. And though exportation of second hand clothing may never disappear, it is important that we find solutions to minimize the sheer volume and reduce the waste that is piling up in other countries instead of being dealt with in the country the waste is produced in.
Change needs to happen in the industry.
Solutions to start this has to start with the fashion Industry itself. Better designed clothing, slow fashion, and natural/sustainable textiles are things larger companies need to be introducing into their systems.
It will take our voices to speak up and tell the big brands we want to see change.
Other things we can do at a personal level is to speak with our wallets. Buy clothes we truly love that we will keep and wear over and over. Purchase them from companies that are part of slow fashion and who believe in sustainable fashion. Or buy from second hand shops that are smaller and who may not export the clothes that do not sell. We can have clothing swaps to trade clothes when we want to change up our wardrobes. We can repair clothes we love instead of throwing it out. Or we can find businesses that will use ur old clothes and make them into something new (check out our textile recycling page if you are in Edmonton and surrounding area.
Textile exportation is a globally complex system and though it feels overwhelming to see how much waste is being generated in this, know there are companies and groups and even individuals who are working towards solutions towards making positive impact in this global system.
I will be diving deeper and as I learn more I will share more.
Check out Change Makers: Trashion to learn more about where some of the textiles end up after being exported.
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