When Your Clothes Die, They Become Earth-Devouring Zombie Clothes

It’s spring! No, even better — it’s summer! It’s summer and it’s hot as a fevered uvula outside, which means that your seasonal amnesia is already urging you to take all your useless winter clothes, pile them up on the street, pour gasoline all over them, and light them on fire, sending thick, ozone-puncturing columns of cotton-blended smoke into the night sky. Or maybe you’re going to donate your clothes to Goodwill, like some kind of habitual do-gooder. Either way, you’re still probably fucking the environment over. Way to go.

Sometimes, people amass too many clothes. It happens. After spending so much money on clothes, those well-dressed someones don’t have enough money left over to move into a bigger space without their new clothes infringing on their daily routines and turning them, gradually, into reality-series-worthy hoarders. So, the people who have all these superfluous clothes have to get rid of them somehow.

However, getting rid of stuff is not always easy — just ask anyone who’s tried to pawn a flea-riddled mattress off on the imperious Goodwill employee guarding the donation pen, or tried to bury a body in the Everglades. Getting rid of stuff for good can be tricky, which is why Elle is happy to help overburdened sartorialists dispose of their outdated, ill-fitting choices in an ethical way, because the average American throws away 70 pounds of clothes per year and that is not at all okay.


Great! Now you’re ready to prune your wardrobe, you can start considering your disposal options. You should just throw them away right? WRONG! That’s the worst thing you can do:

Research from the Environmental Protection Agency indicates that the average charge for landfill dumping is $100 per ton, meaning that taxpayers could potentially save more than $1.1 billion every year by keeping textile waste out of landfills. And the environmental impact? It’s equally dismal: When old clothes are buried in a landfill, they not only take up space but also can also contaminate soil and groundwater and emit horrifying odors. If they're not buried, it’s off to the landfill’s giant incinerator, which releases tons of greenhouse gases, contributing to global warming and climate change.

Okay, fine — but you’re not a monster, and you probably were going to just zip over to Goodwill, right? WRONG AGAIN! According to a report from NPR on the “global afterlife” of your donated clothes, massive clothing donations can present some serious social and environmental problems. Almost half (an estimated 45 percent) of the 3.8 billion pounds of clothing donated each year doesn’t work its way back into your local community — the clothes are exported overseas, broken down by wholesalers, and sent into different markets where they’re resold, not always in the most scrupulous fashion. Either that, or they’re recycled and converted into fibers that can be used in things like insulation, carpet padding, and pillow stuffing.

Your best bet, obviously, is to just become a hoarder, or, if you find yourself already queasy at possibly discovering a family of rodents having dinner in a tent they’ve built out of your old leggings, you might go about finding an organization that will take your clothes and find some way to recycle them responsibly. Like Planet Aid or Earth911 or an organization I just made up in my head that would take old clothes and use them to keep the deceased up with all the latest fashions. We could call it, “Dress My Dead Gam-Gam.”


Image via Ydefinitel/ Shutterstock.