Gaia places our drop boxes for used clothes and shoes in agreement with private businesses
Gaia’s drop boxes are standing in parking lots of businesses
You can donate your unwanted clothes and shoes here
All donated items are brought to our warehouses, where it is packed directly. It is not sorted
Bags with clothes goes in a baling machine, where it is pressed into 1000 pounds bales
The bales are stacked and 44 of those are shipped in a container to countries like for example Guatemala, Nicaragua and Chile, where importers have bought them per pounds for an affordable price
Bags of donated shoes at packed in cap sacs
Some customers prefer clothes to be packed in cap sacs as it gets less wrinkled this way and go directly into a thrift store
Some of the wearable clothes goes to thrift stores in Central America.
Some of the wearable and reusable clothes can make a good income for families in Central America at the marketplaces.
Rewear, Reuse, Recycle
Production of clothing is a resource intensive activity with an environmental impact. The raw materials must be cultivated or extracted, processed into fabric, turned into garments, and transported to market. Every step in the process increases environmental impact.
For example, let's look at the cultivation of the most commonly used fiber-- cotton. Cotton is typically produced in large-scale monocrop agriculture. Because of monocropping practices, cotton requires large amounts of insecticides and pesticides. In fact, cotton production accounts for about 1/4 of world insecticide use. For every 3 pounds of cotton produced, 1 pound of agricultural chemicals are used.
In recent years, farmers looking to reduce usage of agricultural chemicals have turned to transgenic cotton, which has been genetically modified to produce delta endotoxins (insecticides) and for enhanced resistance to herbicides ("Round-up Ready"). The USDA estimates that 73% of cotton planted in the USA was genetically modified to produce pesticides, and 78% was engineered for herbicide tolerance.
Some Facts about the environmental impact the textile industry and of recycling of clothes
- One trillion kilowatt hours are used every year by the global textile industry. That’s 10% of global carbon impact.
- Reusing textiles gives us a net carbon saving of 14.7 pounds. CO2 per 1 pound of textile. Below you will find the calculations and a table.
In the U.S. we consume approximately 42% natural fiber textiles (for example cotton t-shirts), and 58% manmade (synthetic) fiber textiles (for example polyester jackets).
In the table you see that the CO2 emissions from material, production and transport are 16.3 lbs per 1 lb of cotton and 15.3 lbs per 1 lb of polyester. This is then what we would save if we reuse the clothing instead of replacing it with a new garment.
If we don’t grow cotton for a new t-shirt, we won’t have the benefit from the cotton plants taking CO2 out of the atmosphere as they grow. We therefore deduct 1.7 lbs in the cotton column in our calculation.
Finally, we need to deduct the emissions involved in collecting the used clothes, sorting and handling them, and shipping them to where in the world they are going to be worn again.
The net CO2 saved per pound of clothing reused is 14.2 pounds of CO2 for 1 pound of cotton and 15.0 pounds for polyester, or a blended 14.7 pounds for all textiles.
What you can put in the box, and what happens to it.
You can put gently used clothes, shoes, toys, kitchen wear, home decorations in a Gaia Movement collection box. Once a week (or more often), we collect the items from the boxes. The items are brought to a Gaia Movement warehouse in Chicago or Portland. Here it undergoes a minimal sorting-- toys, household items and are taken out. The clothes and shoes become a commodity called "credential" or "original" used clothing.
The term "credential" refers to clothing and shoes that have been collected from the public but have not been sorted.
In the warehouse the credential product is made into 1,000-pound bales. Bags of shoes and loose shoes are removed, because they would not survive the baling process. Shoes are put into large bags called "cap sacks" and sold separately. Toys and household goods are put into “cap sacs” too for resale.
Gaia – like everybody else in the used clothes trade – is selling our products by the pound. The price per pound of clothes is very affordable for the buyers, who can be thrift stores in the Americas, or dealers in South America (mostly), who then again resell it for example one or a few bales at a time for people to then make a business at a market place or a shop.
At the final destinations the product is sorted into different categories of sellable and recyclables.
The best clothing out of the credential used clothing becomes "Shop A", while other nice clothing is referred to as "Shop B." This clothing is typically sold at thrift stores in North and South America. When you go shopping at the thrift store, this is what you see.
The other useable clothing is known as "Mixed Rags." This is clothing that may not be fashionable or may have small tears, stains, or minor imperfections. This clothing is usually exported to developing countries where the resale, repair, and re-styling of second hand clothes supports many small businesses and improves access to quality clothing for low income people.
Historically, high quality clothing has been a privilege of the wealthy. This continues today in the developed world as clothing brands use high prices and prevent working class people from purchasing their brand. In the poorer parts of the world, there may be a developed textile industry; however, the development (or, more properly, re-development after centuries of concerted European colonial actions to destroy local production) of industrial textile production in poor countries has typically been for export purposes. Production of clothing for local sale in poor countries (especially in rural areas) is usually carried out by local artisans. Such small-scale results in prices that are out-of-reach for the poor. By collecting clothing for people to re-wear, we help to break down the class barriers to quality clothing.
Clothing that cannot be reworn still has value. The materials can be reused in other ways.
- You can reuse your old clothing at home as cleaning rags or as material to make a quilt or purse or something else.
- Unusable cotton clothing that is identified at textile sorting houses is turned into cotton wiping rags for industrial use.
- Zippers and buttons are removed from clothing during the textile recycling process and sold on for use in new clothing.
- Pieces of clothes can be sewn together in new creative ways and a new fashion is created
- Vintage shops specialize in certain fashionable, lightly torn pieces of clothes
Some clothing that we receive cannot be reworn or reused. There are many more industrial processes that can be called recycling of textiles.
Here are some examples of textile recycling:
- Cotton clothing is shredded into a fiber form. These fibers can then be processed into insulation, under-carpet padding, and stuffing for upholstery.
- Wool can be reclaimed and used to produce new garments.
- Nylon can be reprocessed into nylon pellets, which are used to make new products from nylon.
- Polyester can be recycled to polyester chips for use in new polyester products like clothing and electronic circuit boards.
- One Gaia customer has even found a way to turn textile dust into fuel.