What To Do With Your Clothing Donations Right Now! Hint: Don’t Donate

The COVID-19 crisis has given many of us on lockdown a chance to spring clean (like we never have before) and declutters our closets,  I am all for getting rid of stuff we don’t want, ethically of course, but donation centers are having a tough time with all the trash people are dumping, so here’s a look at What To Do With Your Clothing Donations Right Now!

The Problem with clothing donations right now:

Diabetes Canada – which normally accepts donations – stopped pickups and closed donation bins back in March, but that has not stopped people from dropping off bags and bags of unwanted things.

clothing donation bins

“The current donations at the donation bins and, in some unfortunate instances the dumping of garbage at donation bins, is posing a serious health and safety issue,” said Diabetes Canada in an open letter to city officials.

Other donation centers like Value Village and the Salvation Army are seeing the same disturbing trend. CTV covered this in a news report.

Fashion Takes Action, Canada’s leading NGO on the subject of #fastfashion and #textilewaste posted this today urging people to “put your bags of unwanted items in your garage, basement or corner of your closet for now.”

Smaller community thrift shops from coast to coast are also being hit hard, like Kidney Clothes in Toronto or the WINS (Women In Need Society) Donation Centre in Calgary Alberta.

What To Do With Your Clothing Donations Right Now?

I spoke with KonMari Consultant Michele Delory who says that people will need to keep those items at home for the moment and notes that “It is becoming a health and safety issue with all of the bags and garbage being left outside.

It’s great that people are taking the time to declutter their homes, but everyone should just find a temporary space at home to leave these unwanted items, and just be patient until donation centres re-open. We don’t know how long things will remain closed, so be sure to label donation bags or boxes to remind you what is inside so that they are let go properly.”

Michele adds that “for people living in houses, the garage, mudroom or basement are good temporary spaces to store. In smaller spaces, condos or apartments, a good spot would be inside the locker/storage room.”

What To Do With Your Clothing Donations Right Now

If the donation centre in your area is open you still need to be cautious when donating as clothing can get contaminated with Covid-19. The Centers for Disease Control suggests that there is evidence that the virus can remain viable for hours or even days on a wide variety of surfaces and materials, including clothing.

And keep in mind if they are open they are most likely understaffed and not able to handle the volume of items coming in, which in many cases will result in all your donations going to landfill. Not something we want!

The next major issue is the environmental cost of all of these “dumped donations” being tossed in landfills, which are currently overflowing with garbage created from over-consumption.  I mean let’s face it, this is part of a much wider conversation. We are simply buying and discarding way too much stuff. We need to think of our economy in a circular way, not the current linear way.

We don’t think about where these “must-haves” come from, the resources needed to make and manufacture them, the transportation costs, the people and the animals who sacrifice so much to keep up with the demand for our consumption.

The is also catastrophic depletion and deforestation from large-scale agriculture infrastructure like factory farms. The depletion of rain forests, to extract palm oil for many daily products you use from toothpaste to gasoline. The extinction of animals all in the name of buying stuff, we don’t need.

It’s something to really think about, in my humble opinion.

The next major issue with this trend is the financial cost to the charity. I asked Kelly Drennan about this she says charities lose money because they can’t collect everything right now, “it will either be ruined by the weather, pilfered by homeless people or tossed in the garbage by the city.”

Adding that “best to hang onto it and donate when you are allowed, then charities can sell it and make the money they need to fund their social programs”

What really disturbs me about this behaviour is the complete lack of mindfulness people have right now. I get that this does not apply to everyone who is doing this, but honestly, we can collectively do better and if this pandemic has taught us anything it’s that the way we were doing things before, is not so great after all!

When stores are ready to accept your stuff, there are things you can do to ensure your stuff gets a second home.

How To Get Your stuff ready to donate

If you are decluttering make a garbage pile and put those items in the garage. The only things you should be donating are things that the donations centre will accept, this ensures it gets a second life. Donation bins are not for your garbage.

Also check to see if certain items you are throwing out, can be recycled. Check with your local municipality and do some homework before you recycle anything.  And an important reminder, textiles and clothing cannot be recycled in most places in Canada, if you place textiles and clothing in the recycling bin it will contaminate it and all of the items in that bag will be sent to a landfill.

Also, think about swapping items with others in your community, just make sure you are still physically distancing. Many websites like Facebook Market Place and ThredUp are also good places to get more info.

Selling your clothing to online thrift shops is another way to get of your old clothes and make some cash at the same time.

In this video, Kelly Drennan and I talk about fast fashion and what we can do to reduce its impact. Do you know what ethical fashion is?

Basically, we want to find as many ways to get rid of our old clothes and stuff without causing more harm.

More ideas on sustainable ways to dispose of old clothes:

So I’ve given you a few great ideas already on how to get rid of your old clothes, but there are so many more ways:

Upcycle your old clothing

This is not for everyone, I realize that. I can’t sew to save my life but I can find fun ways to use old things. Towels can be cut up and used as cleaning cloths. So can old cotton socks.

Old sweaters can be turned into the cutest mittens ever. You can take an old pair of green and make a handbag, and here are over 20 ideas that are pretty doable.

Mend your clothes

In 2013 a study came out that found most people feel they don’t have the skills to mend and repair their clothes, it’s one of the main reasons why so much clothing gets thrown out. Older people tend to be more inclined than the younger generation to do this and I think that’s party due to the fact that clothes are so cheap and easily replaceable. They are undervaluing their clothes and that needs to change.

A 2013 study found that many people do not feel they have the skill to repair their clothes; so they often don’t engage in mending. This is particularly prevalent among young people, with older people being more inclined to mend their clothes. There are so many YouTube videos on how to mend, you can also take a course to learn the basics. If you are thinking about what to do with torn clothes, grab a needle and thread.

Compost your old clothes

Yes, you can do this if it’s made from 100% sustainable materials, no dyes, bleach etc.

Make sure you take off the bits that won’t break down, zippers, buttons, tags etc. Cut it up into really small pieces to help them break down faster. Thie brown material can be added to your compost. Clothing made from synthetic material cannot be compacted or recycled, so best to find new ways to use or donate them.

Can you donate via mail?

You can in some cases. ThredUP and Give Back Box, purgers & spring cleaners can get free shipping labels from heaps of retailers, and also help with what to do with all the delivery boxes! Win-win ✅

Botton line when it comes to what to do with your clothing donations

Be mindful, buy less! It’s really that simple. We tend to buy things and never think about where they end up and we need to change this mindset.

I’d love to know your thoughts and do you have any tips on how you are ethically decluttering?

a basket filled with clothing to be donated

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