Goodwill stores are filling up with cheap pieces no one wants — and it reveals a huge problem with the way people shop for clothes

Some retailers donate unwanted stock directly to thrift stores. Business Insider/Mary Hanbury
  • The rise in fast fashion has created a wasteful shopping habit.
  • Thrift stores like Goodwill are now overrun with cheap clothing that no one wants.
  • The production and disposal of this clothing is creating massive environmental issues.

Fashion is becoming faster, and it’s a big problem.

Retailers are cutting their supply chains every way that they can to stay on top of trends and bring new products out to the consumer more quickly than their competitors.

Competition has reached such heights that the retailers that once ruled the world of fast fashion now seem to lag behind.

H&M is a good example of this. The store has long been known for its speedy turnaround times and ability to offer cheap, trendy clothes, but it’s lost out to even speedier stores in recent years. A report done by Fung Global Retail & Technology showed that it takes online stores ASOS, Boohoo, and Misguided between one and eight weeks to get a product from concept to sale. Zara has a speedy five-week turnaround, while H&M can take up to six months.

Innovation in the supply-chain process has enabled these companies to get products out to customers quickly, but it’s created a trend of disposable shopping.

Americans buy four times as much clothing now as they did in 1980, according to The State of Reuse Report done by thrift store chain Savers in 2017. Much of this clothing gets wasted. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, 26 billion pounds of textiles end up in a landfill each year.

The process of creating this clothing is also a big issue. It takes 2,700 litres of water to produce a T-shirt. In fact, this is the second-most polluting industry after oil, according to The World Economic Forum.

Earlier this month, Business Insider reported that thrift-store chain Goodwill had seen an uptick in donations from millennials who are looking to offload unwanted products.

Blogger Betsy Appleton, who is an ambassador for Goodwill in Tennessee, said she has noticed an influx of donations because of the movement towards trendy, cheap clothing that goes out of style quickly.

“People are more willing to donate as it’s not expensive,” she told Business Insider. “People were more invested before.”

Appleton frequently sees fast-fashion clothing appearing in Goodwill six to 12 months after it launches in stores, which she says makes her less inclined to shop at stores that sell overly trendy clothes.

“When I go to a mall I feel defeated,” Appleton said. “So many of these products are going to end up in a landfill, in the trash, or at Goodwill.”

But some shoppers are becoming more conscious about the impact of shopping in these stores, and that’s driving a trend of millennials shopping in and donating more to thrift stores.

“Millennials are becoming more conscious about sustainable living and preserving the environment,” Erin Hendrickson, a minimalist expert who runs the blog Minimalist RD, told Business Insider.