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Goodwill is one of the first places you may think of when deciding to donate items and I have known to donate a thing or two. But what do they really do with your donated items?
Sadly, what a lot of people may not realize is that many items – mainly clothes, may actually get sent to a landfill and not to a Goodwill store for resale. In addition, many of the clothes that are donated to Goodwill also seem to find their way overseas which not many people know – or would be happy about.
Once clothes get to local overseas markets, there are many possible side effects, including the impact on the locally produced clothing industry which faces competition from overseas imports. The damage could be profound for local jobs and families.
I find this so upsetting as I do not want native workers to lose their jobs so I decided, for the time being, to stop donating.
I realise do good and much needed work to support vulnerable populations, but they can be big-money oriented. And let’s face it, if you are a busy mom, their drop-off locations can be so convenient. But is my convenience more important than someone else’s income? I don’t think so!
Aiming to to better, below is some of what I learned so you can decide if donating to Goodwill is something you still want to do. You can also consider doing some online thrift store shopping which are often less of an issue since usually people or brick and mortar are selling their clothing on these sites – which in turn minimizes the environmental impact to some level.
What Is Goodwill?
Goodwill is a nonprofit that helps create job training programs, provides employment placement opportunities and creates other relevant community programs by selling donated clothing and household items.
When you donate your stuff to them – you are helping people improve their potential to gain job skills and build a career, so there is a lot of good being done.
How Do The Handle Donations?
There is a process that your donation goes through when Goodwill receives your donation. They do review all donated items and only those that are clean, in good shape and are worthy to be on the floor will make it for sale in one of their stores.
Typically those clothes may stay on the sales floor for about 8 weeks and if they do not sell it – they remove it.
If the item is not up to their standards they will then be sent to their bargain outlet where items are sold based on a per pound price. A lot of these items are bought by treasure hunters where the items are then resold at flea markets or online.
Finally, what is left will be sold to a company that will either shred the clothes to make new products or bundle them to ship overseas.
Goodwill Donations Are Big Business
Make no mistake – donations are a big business and make a lot of people a lot of money. But the true downside is the effect it has on the local clothing industries of the countries that purchase our donated clothing.
The estimates for charities like Goodwill or Salvation Army are that only 20% of donated clothing actually gets sold in their stores. The rest of the clothing is then baled up and sold to textile recyclers.
For many this is just wrong! The belief is that these clothes were donated – and should be given out to the needy – not sold to other countries. I agree.
If you are interested in learning more about the world of secondhand items, this is a great book that will open your eyes.
Are There Goodwill Alternatives I Can Donate To?
If what you have read here turns you off to donating to Goodwill – you do have many options!
Check locally to see if there are shelters and more local charities that work with the local community to give items to those in need. That is what I will be doing in the future! I found a woman’s shelter that takes donations to help women get back on their feet and I cannot think of a better way to help!
Ultimately, the best way to avoid any of this is to simply buy less things! We are working on that in our own home – because the less we buy, the better impact we have as a family on the environment and that is what matters to us the most.