I am always curious about how other countries manage donations to help alleviate poverty in local communities. Recently I returned from a trip to Europe, and while I was there I looked into how local organisations and not-for-profits manage goods and services.

I came across a really interesting article in the UK’s Daily Telegraph by Harry Wallop discussing the ‘secret life’ of charities, and the way they manage donated clothes.

According to the article, it is highly unlikely donated clothes such as shirts, suits, jeans and children’s clothes end up in local charity shops. Instead they often end up being sold on the side of a road, in a tiny village somewhere in Africa.

The rise and rise of fast fashion has helped fuel a multi-billion pound second-hand clothing industry in Africa. In the UK last year 350,000 tons of clothing was donated to charity shops. A large majority of these clothes were bought by people who then distributed the items to shops in Africa where they are sold to locals who prefer to wear “obroni wawu” meaning “dead white man’s clothes”.

In Uganda, an estimated 80% of clothes in the country are second hand! The increasingly low prices are damaging local textile manufacturers and in some instances, forcing them out of business.

The situation is causing serious problems in African communities, and charities are making millions selling the items rather than giving them directly to those living in poverty. The amount of donated clothing is now so ridiculous they are solving a waste issue and charities are sustainable because of it.

This huge issue with clothing donations happening worldwide is because we would all rather purchase a new pair of $9.00 jeans from Kmart, than a $7.00 out-of-date pair from the local op shop!

So, what can we do? Next time you donate goods – make sure they go to targeted giving, and next time you need a pair of jeans… why not pop into your local op shop?