For the last 20 years, charities and thrift stores that collected used clothing for fundraising would tell members of the public that they were interested in gently used clothing only. They did this because it is only the better quality garments that can be re-sold locally and most charities and thrift stores do not have the square footage or staff required to sort through everything in order to find things that are suitable for their clients. Therefore they didn’t have a choice but to be very selective of the items they were willing to accept as donations.
By partnering with textile reclamation companies like TWD, charities are able to be less discerning of the items they accept knowing that the balance will generate a smaller secondary revenue stream thanks to the service that we are able to offer them. Even still, the term gently used prevails because let’s face it, even though the recycling sector does have a use for that stray sock in your drawer with a hole in it by turning it into upholstery fluff, there is no value in it and sometimes that portion of our collection generates a loss because of the amount of processing that is involved in getting it upholstery ready. It is the better quality garments fit for reuse or resale that supports the recycling sector and therefore the temptation is to continue using the term gently used hoping to keep the quality of collections profit generating.
Thanks to the Tip Of The Iceberg Symposium in Markham, TWD was educated in the problematic use of this term. The basic issue is that gently used means something different to everybody and there is a massive quantity of items that are not being donated because from a person’s frame of reference they may feel items not worthy enough, or too worn when in fact as a recycler we may be thrilled to get it.
The other issue is that when some companies responsibly alter the narrative to a description that is more inclusive, the organizations that are contributing to the problem by insisting on being overly selective get the items that support the process, and the ethically responsible company doing the right thing ends up with the stuff that actually generates a loss – and that is not fair.
We believe that ethical reclamation companies should be willing to change the narrative and do the right thing by accepting items of all quality – and putting our expertise and resources together to find a value-added solution for the portion of the commodity collection that is problematic. If you are looking to contribute to organizations that are doing the right thing not only for their fundraising, but also for the environment and the sector, support those that use the term suggested by industry experts: Clean, Dry, Odourless.
Gently used is the benchmark quote for organizations that are contributing to the stagnation of the sector. When you hear a company use the terms clean, dry, and odourless that is your indication that they are trying to be part of a progressive solution.