Sunday, June 10, 2007

I had no idea

Reading The Ethicist column in the Times Magazine today I discovered something: clothes donated to charities in this country are often sold to middle men who sell them in Africa. In pictures in the newspaper, there always seems to be at least one person wearing a t-shirt with an American corporate slogan or slang phrase. I always assumed these clothes were given to charities who gave them to people who couldn't afford them. Not always so.

The Ethicist quotes the executive director of the International Labor Rights fund saying that the used-clothing trade "has contributed to the decimation of local garment industries, and therefore contributed to unemployment in Africa." Of course, an exporter of used clothing argues that selling used clothes actually helps the world's poorest people. But next time I give clothes to a charity I'm going to ask where they go. This site has more information.

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