I think most people understand that charities are an important destination for pre-loved clothes. Indeed, I think everybody has been touched by the great work charities do in recycling clothing, either through buying clothes at an op shop, or by placing second hand clothes in a clothing bin. Probably both at different life stages.
The quantities involved are staggering. According to the National Association of Charitable Recycling Organisations, charities in Victoria received an estimated 55,800 tonnes of goods. Of this about 65% was diverted away from landfill through reuse/resale, recycling into a range of materials (such as wiper rags) or exported to developing countries. The remainder went to landfill. The full report (pdf) can be found on the NACRO website.
Considering Victoria has about a quarter of Victoria's population, there's over 220,000 tonnes of goods handled by Australian charities each year. That is a monumental contribution.
Behind this story is a disturbing reality. Of the goods received by charities, about 35% goes to landfill. About 77,000 tonnes per year. You'd think this was avoidable, and it probably is, but it is a massive cost for charities. At a landfill cost of $100/tonne, this is an $8m problem. Each year. Not to mention time and resources sorting rubbish from good stuff, taking it to landfill and so on.
So a problem for charities, but an opportunity for some astute operators in the waste industry. Or perhaps operators outside the waste industry who don't accept the status-quo.
Imagine a partnership, charities doing their bit taking quality goods back to the community, and processors dealing with the waste (and establishing better channels to keep the waste from the charities in the first place). Working together to get some of that $8m back for charities to do their thing. Creating value from the reprocessed materials.
This has to be part of any vision for a new waste world. Crazy, entrepreneurial businesses who refuse to believe that charities have to shoulder the burden of rubbish, and that rubbish is even necessary.