Finally the last thing I want to mention is the disposal of unwanted clothing. Now I have eBay-ed some things in the past year, I have been cutting up old clothes into rags and the ones that I think are nice and decent I give to the charity shop – so far, so standard. This meant that as I read about the 2nd hand clothing industry in Lucy Siegle’s wonderful book ‘To Die For’ I got quite disheartened. Here I was thinking my clothes got a 2nd life and helped a charity and while they do it is in a convoluted and slightly hidden from the public manner. I never thought that by giving my unwanted garments to charity that I would be affecting a national garment industry in another country. So one of my goals this year has been to try and learn more about the disposal of clothing, is there a way in which I can minimise any negative affect the clothing I no longer wish to have has?
In July I watched a rather brilliant BBC This World documentary about second hand clothing. The documentary took you around Ghana, starting in the capital Accra and showing the route and destination of many donations to charity shops or bags given to the recycling banks or shops. It was fascinating and ultimately it did what all good documentaries do and made me start to think and realise that there isn’t an easy answer to the question of whether these 2nd hand clothes are a good or bad thing. There is the fact that these clothes are sold at a reasonable price to people who otherwise would find it difficult to purchase clothing, the fact that they are providing business opportunities for people such as the young woman who walks from tiny village to tiny village in an incredibly remote aspect selling items to villagers and of course the fact that there is choice given in how someone/anyone wishes to dress. Then you have the flip side the 2nd hand clothing is destroying the local garment industry meaning that traditional items in traditional materials made locally are more expensive (now this is interesting because you can see a bit of a similarity to the UK clothing manufacturing here), that everyone starts to dress in similar styles losing some of the unique clothing and styles of the area and of course that it is almost the UK just dumping our unwanted clothing onto another country and making it their problem while we head out to buy more and more, creating a vicious cycle. So did the documentary fulfil one of my challenges this year? No it did not. I still tend to lean towards disliking this aspect of the 2nd hand clothing industry but I feel like I need and want to know more. This documentary has inspired me to start looking into this side of the clothing industry more. In the meantime I want to reduce the amount of clothing I purchase and try only to buy clothing that I will have until the end of its life after being worn to death and mended where possible and then it can become cleaning cloths.
In the end I sometimes think learning and discovering more about the interlinking between something as straight forward as the clothes I buy and the clothes I get rid of makes things more difficult to feel so straight down the line on – that can be a good thing.