Story at a glance

  • In the U.S., clothing and footwear contributed an estimated 11.9 million tons of solid waste in 2015.
  • The expansion of online retailers for used clothing could make keeping up with the latest fashion trends less wasteful.
  • Traditional department stores like J.C. Penny’s, Macy’s and Neiman Marcus have partnered with online used clothing stores to get in on the action.

The expansion of used clothing stores online is providing fashionistas with a less wasteful approach to staying on trend. The online used clothing marketplace was once dominated by eBay, but now includes a host of websites. Some outfits have even partnered with department stores like J.C. Penny and Macy’s, The Associated Press reports.

In the U.S. alone, clothing and footwear contributed an estimated 11.9 million tons of solid waste in 2015, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Just 1.6 million tons were recycled, 2 million tons were burned for energy and the remaining 8.2 million tons ended up in landfills. In the modern era, much of that waste stream has become infused with plastic, the petrochemical wonder-material infecting every corner of the globe with devastating effects.

Consumers will shift to buying more preowned or rented clothing in the future, according to a report. Exactly how much the online marketplace for used clothing has grown is hard to say with precision, but the proliferation of used clothing shops online is responding to increased consumer interest, Anita Balchandani, a McKinsey partner and co-author of the report, told The Associated Press.

The shift to online selling may also boost sales, offering customers the ability to browse without shouldering each other out of the way to flip through a dusty rack of clothes.

The website ThredUP has partnered with Macy’s and J.C. Penny, while Neiman Marcus struck a deal with Fashionphile. Neiman Marcus may even allow customers to sell items to Fashionpile inside their department stores. 

The buy in from long-standing brick and mortar fashion retailers suggests used clothing has captured a significant chunk of the market. Millennials and Generation Z may be less willing to pay full price, preferring the idea of reusing and recycling clothes to sending their outdated duds on a journey almost certain to end in a landfill.

Published on Nov 05, 2019