What happens to all of those clothes retailers can't sell?

Thanks to stores like H&M, Old Navy and Forever 21 that offer mass-produced clothing at dirt-cheap prices, we are living in an age of disposable fashion. And with the constant turnover of goods at these stores, there are plenty of items that never even make it to the cash register. So what happens to all of those unwanted jeans and dresses after their last chance expires on the clearance rack?

Major retailers have a couple options when it comes to getting rid of unsellable clothes: They can either destroy them in industrial-sized shredders and/or dump them in a landfill, hire recyclers to re-purpose the clothes (which can require shredding), sell them to outlets and discount stores like T.J. Maxx, Ross and Daffy's or discount web sites like Overstock.com or Yoox.com or donate them to charities like Goodwill or the Salvation Army.

Much to the dismay of environmentalists and charities, letting unsold clothes end up in a landfill is the method of choice. By doing so, retailers and fashion designers believe they will keep unwanted merchandise from flooding the market and protect their brand by preventing their clothes from ending up on, say, a homeless person, says Luis Jimenez, the executive director of the New York Clothing Bank, an organization founded by Mayor Koch 25 years ago to encourage retailers to donate unsold merchandise instead of trashing it.


The Latest from our Partners