Ah…the Land of Excess Inventory. Some people demand to know what happens with rejects and unsold items, while others rather pretend our environment is doing just fine, thank you.
Spoiler alert…if you don’t want to know about the afterlife of resale goods, read no further!
Garage Sale Rejects
If you’ve ever been an at-home resaler, (i.e. had a garage or yard sale), you know what a pain it can be when you’re left with unsold things. Some of your choices:
- Drag them back into your house – Ugh!
- Try to sell them other places – books to Half-Price Books, clothes to Clothes Mentor, etc.
- Throw them in the trash – only justified if they truly can’t be re-purposed
- Recycle things you can – the environment says thank you
- Donate them to a charity – you get a gold star for the day
- Re-gift them to people you don’t like
Resale Stores’ Excess Inventory
Resale stores also have choices about excess inventory, and the ones they choose depend upon resources available to them and their environmental awareness.
- Mark them down so low eventually someone buys them
- Pass them to an affiliate store for another chance
- Donate them to any (other) charity who will accept them
- Toss them into the dumpster destined for a landfill
- Recyclable items go into a recycling dumpster
- Scavengers will pick up some items, particularly scrap metal
- Pay to have them hauled away
- Sell to someone to haul away
- Recycle on the premises
In some areas, there are companies who will pay for excess inventory, usually by the weight or volume. This is a win-win-win, as it can be another source of revenue for the store, supports the recycling industry, and postpones them being dumped in landfills.
These recyclers may distribute items to their own stores, or recycle materials like grinding down glass, or baling textiles. If you’ve ever seen a video of a third-world country and thought someone’s t-shirt looked awfully familiar, it may be the one you donated!
70% of the world wear used clothing, and it’s a $1 billion industry. The U.S. is the largest exporter, and the major importer is Africa.
You, The Detective
There has been controversy over the years about how some stores say they dispose of things, and what they do in reality. You can always ask, but if you don’t get a straight answer, you can learn a good deal from checking out their dumpster.
Even if a store disposes of unwanted goods by tossing them away, they aren’t necessarily headed for landfills. Dumpster Diving, what used to be call “garbage picking”, has become big business for some.
It can be very upsetting to see even brand new merchandise sitting in a dumpster. Some people resurrect it to sell, others to use, others to donate somewhere that is more environmentally responsible.
If you are tempted to dive in, be forewarned! In many places this practice is illegal, but in every place it’s dangerous. You can bet there will be broken glass, caustic materials, and other hazards that make the practice not worth your trouble.
How You Can Help
If you discover the way a store disposes of unwanted goods and it makes you cringe, be part of the solution. You can volunteer to bring books to schools, linens to animal shelters, or any other place where items are needed. Maybe the store will get the hint, too.