Hopefully we won't be seeing this H&M jumper in a landfill any time soon.
Here’s an interesting story that would have been pretty easy to miss if you don’t live in New York City: Earlier this year, someone tipped The New York Times off to the fact that mega retailer H&M regularly dumped bags upon bags of unworn clothing behind its massive 34th Street store. But these weren’t items the store had bagged to be donated or recycled. Employees had been ordered to destroy the garments with box cutters to ensure the stuff went nowhere but the trash. Then another person discovered even more bags of clothes just a few doors down, on 35th Street, this time marked for sale at Walmart. All of those clothes had been destroyed with hole-punching machines. This was just before Christmas. As you can imagine, the Times story didn’t sit well with New Yorkers, or people elsewhere in the country for that matter, who rightly argued that H&M was doing a great disservice to a) the city’s homeless population, and b) the nation’s landfills. (FYI: We don’t have a lot of space here, so trash from New York gets trucked and shipped all over the country.) The good news is that H&M quickly bowed to media pressure and agreed to make sure its unsold clothes are donated to charity. (The company said that was their official policy all along… ) Walmart also quickly got its PR machine in motion and said it was “investigating” the incident and would make sure in the future garments are recycled or donated. It still troubles me though that it took a muckraker at the Times to call the companies out on these practices. How long had this kind of thing been going on, and how widespread was/is the practice around the world? How much of the planet’s landfills consist of clothing that could have been worn by someone who needed it? I’m not even sure I want to know the answers to those questions. Because I have a feeling they aren’t good.