Within the current sustainability agenda, particular the circular economy, reuse is the greatest approach to extend the life-cycle of a product. It builds onto the concept of recycability, because recycability means that again more energy is needed to dissect product parts into their components, to transform then into new materials and lastly, to use them for new products. Instead, products that can be reused, can be reused. Or can’t they?
What does reuse mean?
When I think about reuse, I think about my dishes. When I clean them, I can use them forever. Particular the very old ones, that are resistent to any scratches or any other severe exposures such as when a toddler is throwing it down the ground. The same principle should apply to all goods such as the ability to wear a shoe, a jacket or anything forever or at least for as long as possible. That is to be able to “reuse ” them.
What role does the Secondhandmarket play in reuse?
Often, many products are bought because of several reasons. That could be to stick to trends, because someone is bored, because someone wants a change, someone just needs it for a specific occassion or someone just feels like it wihtout a particular reason. The consequence is that these products aren’t worn often and because of that many goods are often just discarded, sometimes donated, or do not enter re-selling schemes. That is where the 2ndhand market comes in. A place, where you can re-sell your unused, little used or more often used items that are still in great shape.
How does the seconhand market promote reuse?
Since I also purchase and sell on secondhandmarkets, in which consumers engage with consumers (C2C), I feel they are a great way to buy and selll for a longer product life, to save and make money as well as to save resources for new production and consumption. But as much as I like the concept, I realize that secondhandmarkets have many short commings and so it appears that many of my clothing that I had acquired on secondhandmarkets end up as donations and some clothing also in my garbage – an extension of the linear consumption and production system.
Why do clothing not circle longer in secondhandmarkets?
1. Inauthentic marketing of secondhandgoods
Often I buy clothing from the same brand, but it appears that the designs change over seasons so that clothing such as long sweaters suddenly appear shorter, lets say a long-shirt that does not fully cover my belly. I cannot wear that in winter. Because other people know or experience that too, they don’t resell it authentically always, but become very smart in taking inauthentic pictures that make it appear as if such short long sweater fits nearly anyone up to the point of telling me that it is long. Because there is little incentive to re-buy it, it ends up being donated. [This also applies to colours].
“Does this shirt cover the belly?” “Yes.” “I received the shirt and it feels like an extension of my bra.” #Item deleted, seller no longer responding.
2. One size doesn’t fit all.
Many brands are outsourcing production to other countries and that is okay! What is not okay, is that the size and quality of the models seem to differ depending on what country they are produced in. So it happens that I can be happy with a brands jeans model in size 38, and when I repurchase the same model, a size 38 is too large and the material differs. The same applies to shoes and when I purchase products from different brands. Its confusing.
“Hey, is this model X from brand Y?” “Yes!” “Great, because I really want the size to fit this time.” (…) ” Hey I received it and it’s too large.” “Did you check where yours was produced? ” “In country x” “That makes sense, because mine was produced in country z.” “It makes no sense, but I understand. Thanks.”
3. Some product components are broken
This winter I have been going through 3 secondhand jackets. There is nearly always a little problem that I am not aware of, when I buy it such as a broken inside pocket or a broken zipper. Because I am not the only one who dislikes it, I cannot resell the jackets, unless someone does not bother a broken zipper or inside pocket. Most people do. Therefore, jacket goes to landfill since also people or businesses who depend on donations do not want to wear a jacket with a broken zipper or pockets.
“My appointment went really great, because my zipper broke, so I would just sit there with my jacket on, sweating, waiting to go home to climb out of that jacket, to then toss it and try again with another jacket.”
4. The Quality often sucks
Now that I managed to buy and find a good that is not broken and has been authentically sold to me, I realize that I can wear the item for a season and than also nobody else wants to buy it. That is becuase some product parts widen, they get very loose when I wash them, some jeans are torn where they are mostly used, some parts are a little dirty (i.e. my pink jacket form sitting), or the polyster furr of my boots simply looks aweful after two months of use in the winter. Because I don’t like it, other people don’t like it either, and the jacket or shoe goes to a donation or landfill. For my shoes this made me very sad, because the overall quality is great, but the polyster fur quality too bad.
4. The effort rarely pays
It is in my joyfull evening whatsapp conversations with my girlfriends that we sometimes talk about our Saturdays’ work on a secondhandplatform, how exhausted we are since we have to do the marketing, talk to our customers, be rejected by our potential customers, deliver products, wait for payments and than verify that the product delivered is received well and if not how to deal with complains (this is were authentic sales really is important to avoid any complains to happen!). And that all that is exhausting, sometimes it doesn’t even work and we still end up with many products at home, ready to be donated (if). For some of course it works : )
“You know if I would give myself an hourly rate, it would probably 2 Euros but its still worth it, because I simply have too much and the product value is still good. And it is better then tossing it.. Still, I am so exhausted.
5.The competition is intense
There are millions of products online and to resell a shirt or anything, you really have to stick out, be constantly present, take the best photographs. In addition, there are so many products. That makes it is difficult to resell, even at a higher price because the same or similiar products, of which there are sometimes thousands from sell at a lower price. This makes the resell market saturated and therefore at least supports me again in donating or tossing my clothes.
6. So much more
Brand image, response time, picture quality, different body sizes, communication, pricing….
How can clothing cycle longer in secondhand market?
After two years of 2ndhand “war” I came to conclude that the best type of textiles to resell and fit into the Circular Economy Framework for “reuse” are those that speak up for durability and repairability. These may be clothing or products for which product parts can be repaired and once repaired can re-enter the re-sales system. I had done so with many shoes (by as much as possible) or asked a shoe dealer to fix some parts and that made me resell them again very well. But for product parts in which the buying price was already low , lets say 20 Euros, there was little incentives for me to fix them for another 20-30 Euros and because of that, I decided to discard them. Regardless the product, material quality plaid and continues to play an important role. And of course there is authentic sales.