Beach Waste: Are These Your Clothes?

By Hugh Molotsi: Buy Nothing Project President and CTO
Photo: Muntaka Chasant/Shutterstock
You may have read about the tragic piles of discarded used clothes that line a beach in Accra, Ghana. My question to you, are some of these clothes yours?

The average US resident throws out 81 pounds of clothing each year. While donating your clothes to thrift stores is much better than throwing them out, that is by no means a perfect solution. Perhaps less than 20% of clothes donated will be sold in thrift stores, the rest destined for textile recyclers, salvage buyers, and landfills (where 85% of all textiles end up). Salvage buyers will export clothes in bulk to second-hand clothing markets like Ghana where they will be picked through and what's left is how we end up with beach waste (see What Really Happens to the Clothes You Donate). Yes, that sweater you so dutifully donated could be in that mess!

Clearly our consumption habits are not good for the planet and why there is a rising movement to reuse rather than throw away. Thankfully Gen Z is more concerned with climate change than any generation before.

So what is a better way?

I'm proud to work at BuyNothing, a worldwide network of local gift economies enabling us all to share what we have in excess and ask for exactly what we want. BuyNothing was founded 10 years ago by Liesl Clark and Rebecca Rockefeller as Facebook groups and now includes a dedicated platform with iOS and Android apps. We have over one million users of the app and over ten million members in our Facebook groups.

A Yale doctoral student conducted a study of BuyNothing communities in Connecticut, Idaho and Tennessee, and calculated that over 70,000 metric tonnes of goods are diverted from the landfill each year.

When you gift an item on BuyNothing, you know it is going directly to the person who will make use of it. Not only do you get to feel good about giving a gift, you also know your sweater won't end up on a beach somewhere!

Also, when you need something, BuyNothing is a great resource to ask rather than spend money. People have been gifted a wide myriad of items on the platform including clothes, electronics, strollers, tools, and even a car!

Join the movement!

Even with our millions of members, we are still a nascent community and we could use your help to expand our impact.
  • Join the community by downloading the mobile app today. Start by gifting something that's been sitting around your house unused for years.
  • Make a contribution to help us pay for our server hosting costs and other operations. Please reach out to me if you'd like to invest in our B-Corp.
  • Become a volunteer! We could especially use developers and testers to help us improve and add more functionality to our service.