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What Fast Fashion Costs the World

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What Fast Fashion Costs the World

Many clothing donations end up in an unexpected place – African landfills.

Experience Magazine,

5 min read
2 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Ever wonder what happened to the clothes you donated last month? They may be in an African landfill.

Editorial Rating



  • Controversial
  • Eye Opening
  • Engaging


Remember the box of discards you brought to a charity collection bin last month? You, in your benevolence, not only helped a nonprofit raise funds, you also gave your old – and even not-so-old – clothing a second life in a new home. A win-win situation, right? Writing for Experience Magazine, Ryan Lenora Brown says, well, likely not. She follows the donated clothing trail to find out what really happens to fashion castoffs. Brand names like H&M, Target and Mango, for example, bring affordable style to the masses, but that cheapness comes with a significant cost. Often “fast fashion” ends up relegated to a landfill far, far away.


The clothes you gave to charity six months ago may be in an African landfill today.

The outdated shirts you dropped in a charity bin six months ago may now be among hundreds of pounds of clothing decomposing in a landfill in Africa. And if a wind takes the flimsy material airborne, it may end up on Africa’s beaches.

Chances are that your castoffs are not helping charities raise funds or providing clothing for the less fortunate. American charities have such an abundance of donations that your old clothes, along with thousands of other discarded pieces, have a good chance of being compressed into packages and shipped to other parts of the world.

Fast fashion companies like Target, H&M and Topshop use cheap labor to produce garments that customers often only wear once or twice before recycling. Donation...

About the Author

Ryan Lenora Brown’s work has appeared in The Washington Post, The New York Times Magazine and Runner’s World.

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