The Truth About Where Your Donated Clothes End Up

Marc Kaplowictz, whom we also met while he was donating clothes in New York City, has mixed feelings: "And who ends up with the profit there? Big picture, obviously I would be against that. I am obviously the little guy in this process. I don't know. I don't think the answer is to have people stop donating."

The other view is that the donated clothing market is actually the American way, that your old clothing is used at every step to create new wealth and to help people who are less fortunate. First of all, charities like Goodwill Industries and The Salvation Army make clear on their Web sites that proceeds for charity and thrift shops, as well as from bulk sales to recyclers, go directly to support education, work and drug rehab programs for people who would otherwise suffer greatly. After all, isn't that the spirit in which you gave your clothes to begin with?

Brill, of the Secondary Recycled Textiles Association, told ABC News that it is a win-win situation. "It provides thousands of jobs here at home [in the U.S.] and it provides hundreds of thousands of jobs in Africa." And he added: "It also diverts waste material that would otherwise go to land fill. It goes to recycling, so it helps to protect the environment."

Both the Goodwill and the Salvation Army point out on their Web sites that much of the donated clothes are sold in their charity shops to raise money for a variety of good causes. But there is no mention of the fact that some donated items are sold overseas at a profit to private enterprises. One Goodwill source stressed that Americans should continue to donate their used clothing because U.S. charities need their cut of this market in order to help other Americans in need.

Most people we spoke with seemed to agree.

Lynn Novick, also donating in New York, told ABC News: "So someone's making money every time they are sold? At least they are not going in the garbage, and going totally to waste…I will continue donating."

And Valerie Adam, of Manhattan, said, "It is kinda the American way, isn't it.? Somebody discovered something and turned it into a business. I will continue donating. We Americans we collect so much. We accrue so much."

And here on the streets of Ghana, Africans, for better or worse, end up buying a lot of what we give away.

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