Greenpeace Unveils Global Journey of Donated Clothing Through Geolocation Study

Editorial TeamEditorial Team
November 29th, 2023
2:28 PM

Greenpeace utilizes advanced geolocation technology to unveil the fate of donated clothing, exposing a significant lack of second-life utilization as tracked items, placed in containers and stores, embark on a complex and uncertain global journey.


Greenpeace has employed cutting-edge geolocation technology to shed light on the fate of donated clothing, revealing a concerning lack of second-life utilization. This study involved tracking 29 garments placed in municipal containers and within Zara and Mango stores, uncovering a vast and uncertain journey for these items.

Over a four-month monitoring period, Greenpeace found that only one item out of the 29 confirmed its reuse, having been purchased from a second-hand store in Romania. This revelation coincided with the consumer-driven Black Friday, emphasizing the environmental challenges posed by the overproduction of clothing and footwear.

The remaining items exhibited diverse trajectories, covering thousands of kilometers and reaching destinations like Chile, Pakistan, India, or Togo. Some are stored in Spanish warehouses, while others remain untraceable. The geolocation devices provided insight into the complex life cycle of donated clothing, raising questions about the efficiency of current systems.


Geolocation Study Methodology

Greenpeace strategically placed geolocation devices on clothing and footwear suitable for reuse across 11 Spanish provinces, including containers in public areas and within Zara and Mango stores. The discovery that both Zara and Mango are managed by the same entities added a layer of complexity to the findings, particularly as garments from both brands were located in international textile reception centers in the United Arab Emirates.

The study unveiled a significant exportation trend, with garments ending up in countries such as Egypt, Togo, and Morocco. Citing data from the European Environment Agency, Greenpeace highlighted that 46% of used textiles exported from the European Union find their way to African countries, contributing to environmental challenges.

The research underscores the immediate need for a fundamental shift in the clothing production and consumption model. Greenpeace emphasizes the importance of avoiding temporary measures and false solutions that may delay this transition. Effective management of used clothing requires a reduction in production, a focus on garment durability and quality, and a commitment from clothing brands to address the environmental and social impact.


Response from Mango and Inditex

Following the publication of the report, Mango and Inditex clarified their practices, stating that they offer containers in their stores for users to deposit garments in collaboration with non-profit entities. These organizations sort the items for reuse, recycling, or electrical co-generation. Mango stressed that the majority of textile waste deposited in these containers is destined for reuse, with only a small portion remaining in Spain for second-hand sales.

Inditex, the group that owns Zara, assured that their agreements explicitly prohibit diverting garments to landfills and certain export markets. They highlighted that over 60% of the garments are reused, either through donations or sales to finance social projects.

Greenpeace's geolocation study provides a comprehensive view of the global journey of donated clothing, prompting a call for systemic change in the fashion industry. The study's findings underscore the importance of responsible and sustainable practices in clothing production and consumption to address the environmental and social challenges associated with textile waste.