Marie Kondo method or vacuum storage: what happens to your old clothes?

In January 2019, Netflix launched a series that caused a sensation: “The art of tidying up with Marie Kondo.” This Japanese woman has developed a rather radical vacuum cleaning method. Just consider every object that surrounds us and keep only those that “bring us joy”. This method has led to an unexpected consequence in the United States: the second-hand supply chain cannot absorb the influx of clothing.

In our country, the second-hand clothing sector has not noticed an increase in donations since the release of the Netflix series. At the Association Terre, donations are constant, even slightly increasing thanks to the multiplication of collection areas. At Les Petits Riens, 6,341 tons of textiles were harvested last year. More than 85% of these donations were reused.

15% of clothes are sold in the 27 shops of Les Petits Riens, it is called “la crème”. 28% of textiles are recycled in the insulation sector and, finally, 39% are exported.

second hand clothes

An increase in the volume of waste

However, Les Petits Riens notes a change in waste management. Between 2017 and 2018, the rate rose from 15% to 19%. For Catherine Legein, Director of Communication and Marketing, this is due to a decline in quality:”In the specifications of some major ready-to-wear brands, we can read that clothes must withstand four washes,” she regrets.

We receive more and more Kleenex clothing

Geneviève Godard, communication manager at Earth, shares this same observation:”There are more and more large chains of clothes at low prices, they are Kleenex clothes that are out of shape after a few washes. It’s very difficult to give these clothes a second life,” she admits.

And this poor quality is mainly due to cotton fields. Producers are increasingly solicited by major chains. A frequency that does not correspond to the production cycle, so cotton must grow faster and faster. And the quality is affected.

Beyond the poor quality of the fast-fashion clothes, Caterine Legein reminds us that there is no such thing as a disposable textile collection system. Some people therefore bring their clothes into one of the 800 bubbles collected by Les Petits Riens. Damaged, torn, dirty, damp clothes that will end up in recycling.

Not everything can be recycled

However, not all clothing is eligible for recycling. Geneviève Godard de Terre:”Only natural materials can be recycled: cotton, linen, silk. Not everything that is synthetic can be recycled”. For these clothes, there is only the path to the incinerator. A cost that clothing collection associations must bear. Often higher than that of collection and sorting.

The second hand and the recovery are on the rise, this success has surprising consequences as shown by this report made in 2013