Eco Comment – Second Hand September and the Clothes Mountain

08 September 2023

Second hand September has become an annual campaign for the Oxfam charity. It encourages people to ‘Dress for the World you want’ in an effort to reduce waste and take a stance against climate change. It’s an opportunity for all to donate, re-use, re-wear and re-style clothes during September and beyond.

Aside from the alliteration, September is a good time to start afresh. Autumn is supposedly on the way so we are encouraged to look at our wardrobes critically and some people still ‘put away’ their summer clothes and get out clothes for cooler autumn and winter weather.

But, we are also bombarded with advertisements for sales and money off the increasingly competitive world of fast fashion.

Recently I’ve seen adverts for 90% off sales! A particular online company who will only let you buy if you download their app is attempting to rival another online company who already promise almost unbeatable prices. It’s not just online either; fashion is a cut throat world for many. I could say that I wonder how they can produce so much so cheaply? Sadly you only have to look at the labels to find out. Prices are cut to the bone. From the producers of the raw materials to the machinists working in their own homes for a pittance in countries around the world where wages are so negligible as to shock our western sensibilities. All are feeding the lust for what has become one of the worst contributors to the climate change issues of our times.

There are many ethical fashion designers and brands who attempt to redress this mass consumerism. If you look at recent fashion graduates they invariably include work with social enterprises and include ways of reusing good quality materials in their portfolios. These range from knitwear to trainers to recycling plastic into wearable clothes.

What so many are trying to avoid are the mountains of textiles that are thrown away and sent to other countries along with the plastic recycling. Like so many things, it’s all got out of hand. We pass on our problems for others to sort out and in doing so have destroyed the livelihoods and cultural crafts in these other places. An internet search soon shows the reality of this waste. Have we become anaesthetised to the photos of children picking through plastic waste? The textile waste is far worse. What started in the past with good intentions as charitable giving has become an albatross to those on the receiving end.

So if by buying second hand we can slow this down, we are doing our little bit to help others. And as an aside … charity shops often have new goods donated by some of the big clothing brands as their way of getting rid of excess stock and giving something to society. It’s always worth taking a look! The nearest Oxfam might be in Leeds or Huddersfield but we have several other charities in Wakefield that are also looking for both donations and customers to shop during Secondhand September.

Susan Morgan
Eco Group

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