Letter: Stop the T-shirt madness
September 30, 2014
To the Editor:
I have owned and worked in a local thrift shop for about three years now. It has largely been a wonderful and eye-opening experience.
The ugliest truth I have faced in this business is actually about shirts — specifically event shirts, and promo shirts for businesses. We get so many of these it is unbelievable. Many of these are local events for charity, some of which I have participated in.
Recently, I sent a whole car load of trash bags full of event and local business promotion shirts to ARC. We donate our excess goods (items that are too damaged or not appropriate to our store) to ARC, a large organization similar to Goodwill.
I want to find out what ARC does with these because I doubt they can sell them either. The complaints I've seen around the internet involve young African people wearing these shirts, which are given to them for free by charitable organizations. Apparently, this creates hardship and strife within villages that used to have their own clothes makers and craftsman within their small cooperative trade circles before the charities came.
I've also heard that clothes can be shredded and turned into paper. Even if they do make them into paper, does this make sense to you? Make the shirt, print it, wear it once (or not, many of these are brand new) and then put it through another industrial process to turn it into paper? This is the best case scenario?
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What saddens me is that people participating in these events pay an entry fee with the genuine intention of doing something good. I'm sure they don't equate it with excess in that they will probably never wear the shirt again, and that it may end up in a landfill, or on some little kid overseas. How many people participate in our biggest local event? Hundreds? How many people run the Boston Marathon? I'll bet they all get a shirt.
So, to the powers that be, I beg you to stop this madness. All printed items are pretty much worthless the day after your event. Coffee cups, shirts, key chains, the little lightweight backpacks with "goodies" in them are all a huge waste. Personally, I would rather see 100 percent of my entry fee given to the charity instead of a portion going to T-shirts printed at a bulk rate.
The same is true for businesses. These shirts are created with promotion and publicity for your business in mind. However, to have a shirt with your name on it that nobody wants hanging in a local thrift shop for a year is probably the opposite of your goal. I used to try to sell these as "local shirts" but don't anymore because nobody wants them. These also go to ARC.
I think stickers are better, and this is the alternative I would humbly suggest. They are smaller, and you can put them on something that already exists, and peel them off when you need a change. They are also cheaper to produce, and kids like them.
I am writing this letter to raise local awareness to this issue and in the hope that practices will change for 2015. It has been bothering me for some time.