Charities such as the Saint Vincent de Paul Society, the Salvation Army and Goodwill sell the clothing given to them in their own thrift stores.
However, only half of the donations end up on their shelves. And only half of these sorted garments will be purchased by their customers.
The Salvation Army keeps used clothing it receives for four weeks. If they are not sold in the meantime, they are replaced by a new arrival, explains Tonny Colin, head of donations in Canada for the charity.
Other organizations, such as the Canadian Diabetes Association or Big Brothers Big Sisters, sell the collected clothing to companies like Value Village. The company then buys the clothes by weight, at a price negotiated on a case-by-case basis, which is not made public.
But, according to corporate recycling vice president Tony Shumpert, Value Village only sells about a quarter of the sorted garments.
Almost three-quarters of the clothes that arrive in thrift stores will therefore not have a second life. The contents of certain donation boxes never reach the places of resale.
Thus, 80 to 90% of donated clothing is not sold in Canada. Where do they end up then?
This is where specialized brokers come in.
"The crisis of things"One of the largest brokers for used clothing in Canada is Bank & Vogue, based in Ottawa.
Each week, the company receives approximately 1,000 tonnes of clothing from some 270 charities, mostly American.
Garments are placed in bundles and shipped to processing plants in Toronto, Houston or even India, for sorting.
Some will be made into rags for industry needs. Others will be shredded and reprocessed as insulating material or to stuff car seats.
And others, finally, will be sorted and sold to retailers in countries like Kenya, which imported last year from Canada the equivalent of $ 21 million in used clothing, according to Statistics Canada.
Bank & Vogue co-founder Steven Bethell donate a car huston charity program started in this industry 22 years ago when he worked for the Salvation Army and was trying to find an outlet for these second- and third-hand clothes .
According to him, the company is looking for solutions to what he calls "the crisis of things".
With its expertise, Bank & Vogue has grown into a global company that employs 300 people, has opened stores called Beyond Retro, in the UK and Sweden, and has an "over-cycle" factory in India, which transforms old fabrics into new clothes ready for sale.