Updated: Oct 22, 2020
Thanks to Marie Kondo, people all over the Bay Area are decluttering and re-organizing their homes in the spirit of “sparking more joy”. Bags of clothing are being donated by the thousands. But what actually happens to our clothes when we no longer want them?
The Sustainable Fashion Alliance, in partnership with Design for All Kind, decided to see just that by organizing a tour of Goodwill of San Francisco, San Mateo and Marin Counties’s sorting facility located in South San Francisco earlier this month.
Much of the Bay Area’s unwanted stuff is collected and managed by Goodwill, a non profit organization that was founded 100 years ago with the mission to create jobs for the most marginalized people in the community. Today, their focus is still on job creation and turning donations into job training for local people struggling with unemployment due to incarceration and hardships.
Operating with 20 retail locations with over 600 employees, Goodwill of San Francisco, San Mateo and Marin Counties receives about 640,000 pounds of clothing donations per month and diverts 30 million pounds of textile from landfill each year. Given that half of fast fashion items are disposed of in under a year, Goodwill has their hands full. Also, thanks to the aforementioned “Kondo effect”, they are receiving 30% more donations than usual.
So what happens to all the stuff?? If you break it down, only 20-30% of Goodwill’s total donations go to their retail stores and e-commerce; 5-10% of donations go to landfill due to contamination; and the remainder (along with items that have not sold in the retail store for over six weeks) go to Goodwill outlets where they are sold in bulk by the pound. Anything that does not sell through the outlet is then sold to textile recyclers (or “MRF” multi-reuse facilities) and brokers who sell these goods to the international market.
In today's globalized economy, Goodwill finds itself in the middle of the apparel waste and circular supply chain.
Despite overcoming the challenges of being over capacity, the Goodwill of San Francisco, San Mateo and Marin Counties team embraces change and growth.
“Technologies that are separating fibers are going to be really important”, said Goodwill’s CEO William Rogers.
As textile recycling solutions urgently move to the forefront of the sustainable movement, Goodwill is eager to collaborate to help divert the other 85% of textile waste from landfill.
For more about Goodwill's processes on a national level, check out this article.