MONTGOMERY, Kentucky — Donating our unwanted items is better than simply dumping them in a landfill, but what if these donations are doing more long-term harm to the people and countries we are trying to help?
Many charities that clothes are donated to, such as Oxfam and Salvation Army, often resell the items many people assume are being distributed for free to those in less fortunate, poverty-stricken areas. Though these charities do not claim to be handing out our donations for free, it is also not eagerly expressed to donors.
That is not to insinuate these charities are unworthy of donating to or that they create no positive outcomes. Reusing clothes, of course, reduces materials made by recycling. The processes of reselling secondhand donations also creates jobs varying from shipping, stocking and selling. Needless to say, it also provides cheaper, though not free, clothes to those truly needing a bargain.
While those are highly admirable contributions, the flip side of those donations need to be examined. Though these resold clothes are providing cheaper goods for those in poverty, what are they taking away in place of it? The possibility at revamping an economy? Stable workplaces? Replacing an authentic culture with second-hand sport teams’ shirts?
According to The Guardian, “Poland, Ghana, Pakistan, Ukraine and Benin,” are the top five locations for donated items to be sent. The range of items are not limited to those, and in countries like Tanzania and Zambia, they make up a large percentage of people’s income.
With so many items being shipped in that can be bought for much lower prices than locally made clothes, the economy in most of these third-world countries have collapsed. Often, tubs full of used clothing are shipped in and resold to local vendors who turn around and sell it to people within their community in hopes of making a slight profit.
Deutsche Welle, a German international broadcaster, found that “In many African countries, an estimated 60 to 80 percent of clothing is bought second-hand,” and then being resold to maintain a life and family.
This system is making underdeveloped and impoverished countries a dumping ground for the rest of the worlds unwanted items while also making a profit off of them. Since few items are being exported from these industry barren countries, they cannot aim to improve their economy and lives, but only survive from day to day.
Due to struggling economies, governments often felt political stress to borrow money from banks such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Borrowing this money would temporary relieve some problems that were necessary to handle. Now, however, a few decades later, the need to repay the loans with steep interest rates are taking what little government money there is available.
So what can be done to continue helping those impoverished around the world without hurting them in the long-term?
Putting time, effort and funds toward causes that will make lasting impressions on these countries is the best and most effective way to start. Helping build wells, whether physically doing it or by donating the money for them, allows people to worry less about their water source and put more time toward rebuilding a country and economy able of flourishing.
Contacting your congressmen and congresswomen to express your concern for the loans and interest rates being put on these struggling nations can help for their voices be heard. While contacting them, supporting legislature to improve lasting conditions can make the change someone needs. In no way is donating clothes to be recycled an immoral action. However, knowing where your donations are going and how they will be distributed could be the difference between a struggling nation and a prosperous one.
– Katherine Wyant
Sources: The Guardian, Deutsche Welle
Photo: Bargain Babe