Recycling by clothing retailers in many advanced countries takes the form of donating unsold items to charity. However, recycling is an alternative only after products can no longer be sold at reduced prices or through secondhand shops. Women’s fashion especially changes so quickly that retailers are now donating instead of throwing away unsold clothes. Much of this discarded clothing finds its way to Africa, where it’s snapped up by shelters for children and abandoned women.
For companies, recycling remains primarily a means to polish their public image. Companies have recognised the interest of consumers in environmental issues. Now they want to soothe the bad conscience of consumers and effectively encourage people to buy more clothes. However there are experts in sustainable design who are unconvinced of the benefits of the newfound enthusiasm of clothing retailers to recycle. They say recycling only increases the circulation of materials and that it would be more reasonable for the environment if consumers bought good-quality, long-lasting clothes.
In addition, they are unsure about the benefits of sending unsold clothing items to Africa. They say the underlying idea is good but that the amount of textiles sent to Africa by western countries is currently so enormous that it threatens the local textile industry.