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Where do our donated clothes end up?
Feb 2, 2022
Episode 592

Where do our donated clothes end up?

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Plus, economic sanctions and garlic prices on today's Waddya Wanna Know Wednesday.

Every year, Americans donate millions of pounds of clothing to Goodwill, including one of our listeners, who wondered, “When I drop stuff off at Goodwill, where does it go?” We’ve got an answer for that one, as well as more listener questions about economic sanctions and a predictable story about a common and increasingly pricey cooking ingredient.

Here’s a look at everything we talked about on the show today:

Do you have a question you want us to answer? You can send us a voice memo or call us at 508-UB-SMART (508-827-6278). You can also email us — just send it to makemesmart@marketplace.org!

Make Me Smart February 2, 2022 transcript

Note: Marketplace podcasts are meant to be heard, with emphasis, tone and audio elements a transcript can’t capture. Transcripts are generated using a combination of automated software and human transcribers, and may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting it.

Marielle Segarra: Yeah, yeah. So you could put on I was just listening to “How Will I Know” by Whitney Houston. So I mean, you want me to sing some?

 

Reema Khrais: How will I know?

 

Marielle Segarra: Yeah, there you go. I was like, I could serenade you if you want.

 

Reema Khrais: I love that song. I tweeted about this earlier, but I was driving to get lunch earlier. And I was just like dancing in my car.

 

Marielle Segarra: Like, can you imagine that?

 

Reema Khrais: It was actually really awkward. Like to feel like you’re in a bubble. And then you look to your left and someone’s staring at you. Oh, my God. We’re starting.

 

Marielle Segarra: That’s amazing. Yes. And that is a very good story that I kind of want you to retell. But maybe we’ll, – I’m, first of all, I’m just gonna say hi, I’m Marielle Segarra. Welcome back to Make Me Smart. Where we make today make sense. Thank you for joining us. And I’m joined today by, surprise:

 

Reema Khrais: I am Reema Khrais I host Marketplace’s podcast This is Uncomfortable, which you should check out if you haven’t already. But yeah, it is Wednesday, which means it is What Do You Want to Know Wednesday, the day we answer questions from listeners. So thank you for sending those in. You can always email them to us at make mesmart@marketplace.org. Or leave us a voicemail at 508-UB-SMART.

 

Marielle Segarra: And here is our first question.

 

Reema Khrais: Let’s do it.

 

Ryan: Hi Make Me Smart, this is Ryan from Baltimore, Maryland. And I was hoping you guys could make me smart. How is that sanctions, economic sanctions have become the de facto method for dealing with bad actors?

 

Reema Khrais: That is a good question, Ryan. So I will take a stab at this. You know, obviously he is asking about sanctions because it is in the news lately, a bipartisan group of US senators is currently working on a bill that would impose sanctions against Russia, right, hoping it would stop the country from invading Ukraine, which is looking increasingly likely. So basically, over the years the US government has relied on sanctions, basically as a tool of diplomacy, right. It’s seen as this lower cost, lower risk alternative to military force or war. Sort of like an in between solution, right? So instead of putting boots on the ground, or just doing straight up diplomacy, there’s a way that they can hit them, right. Like, you know, they can threaten their cash flow in that, you know, that can take a lot of different forms, right, barring US companies from doing business there prohibiting access to US banking system, you can also target specific actors by freezing their assets or imposing travel bans. And the point is, is that it’s ideally going to make it tough for a country to do well, economically, right? And will hopefully put – idea is that the people in the country have pressure leadership to continue negotiating with the US or try to accomplish whatever goal it is. And it’s interesting, this is actually it’s been a tool that’s been used almost since the country was founded. Obviously, one of the more popular examples, obviously, is the Cuba Embargo of 1962.

 

Marielle Segarra: But it goes back to even like Thomas Jefferson, right, in the early 1800s. I think used embargoes against Britain.

 

Reema Khrais: Right, exactly. So long history, which is interesting, and, you know, makes sense, the way that the country has used it, it’s like a signal to the country and to the world, that we’re not going to sit back, we’re going to do something about this problem. And we really saw apparently, there was a spike in these kind of sanctions after 9/11 by both political parties. And, you know, the Trump administration apparently has set the record for the number of sanctions, or rather, Trump sets the record for the number of  sanctions he imposed. But the thing is, there’s been a lot of questions apparently about the effectiveness of these sanctions. So you know, it’s hard to know, sometimes the full impact of them, it’s hard to separate it from other factors. Because, you know, a lot of times economic damage, you can’t really know if that’s being translated to political change. And it turns out, a lot of countries are more resilient than we think. And so there is this criticism that like, yes, they give the appearance of action, and if used alone, but if used alone, rather, they’re not as effective. It kind of depends on how much cooperation you get from other nations. And if you’re using other diplomatic tools, apparently.

 

Marielle Segarra: Yeah. Well, there’s also, there are risks to them. Right. Like there’s the risk of retaliation, like in the case of Russia, it could potentially cut off natural gas shipments to Western countries, particularly European countries that rely on that gas. Or if we are targeting Russia’s banks, which could be a huge hit to the country’s economy to Russia’s economy, then Russia might target our banks with cyber attacks. And that’s something that is that the Department of Homeland Security is talking about and warning about. And there’s also the risk that for instance, with Russia, if the embargoes shake Russia’s economy in the ways that are expected, I mean, these would potentially be really impactful that could destabilize the global financial system, because Russia is a huge country, and could have a lot of ripple effects. There’s a really interesting story from the Atlantic about sanctions and the history of them from back in 2019. And you’d be surprised at how many sanctions the US currently has.

 

Reema Khrais: I know.

 

Marielle Segarra: Yeah, it was like in 2019, it was like just under 8000 sanctions we had in place. And there’s a tool from the Treasury Department, where you can look, if you just search I’m looking at right now. If I search, you can say, click on says Nicaragua, search. And then you can see all of the the entities and people and companies in Nicaragua that we have sanctions against, or Libya or Syria, and like on the Syria list, Bashar Al Assad shows up, but so to a whole other bunch of people and even aircraft like particular aircraft. So if you’re curious, we’ll to link to that one on the show page, too.

 

Reema Khrais: Yeah, that’s so interesting. Cool. Well, let’s move on to the next question. I think this one’s for you, Marielle.

 

Jacob: My name is Jacob. I’m from San Francisco in the Sunset District. I’ve got a question about clothing donations. When I drop stuff off at Goodwill, where does it go? Does all go into that store that I dropped it off out for sale? Or does it go some like warehouse somewhere? Doesn’t get transferred to another country? Just curious if I’m doing the right thing with my clothing, donations, thanks, guys.

 

Reema Khrais: I too, have had this question.

 

Marielle Segarra: Yeah, I think a lot of people do. And I guess Jacob, it depends what you mean by doing the right thing, right. So for Goodwill, once you – to answer your questions specifically about Goodwill, when you drop your clothes off, they get sorted by employees, and anything that’s considered completely unusable goes into the trash, then everything else is looked over by workers who decide, okay, here’s what this is worth, we’re gonna put prices on it. Some of the stuff that’s considered in really good shape will get put on Goodwill’s online marketplace. And then the rest will be in stores. And there’s a four week shelf life. So if it doesn’t sell in four weeks, then it gets put in an outlet. Or if it’s sold isn’t sold at the outlets, then they’re basically the clothes are put in bulk, 1000 pounds packaging, or 1000 pounds shipments that is that are sold to secondhand markets, usually in Central America, South America, countries in Africa, Pakistan. And so that’s what happens at Goodwill. And part of the argument for how you might be doing good with your clothes, by donating to Goodwill is that you’re making those clothes available for pretty cheap for people in the community to buy. But also that Goodwill, then take some of the profit from the sale of those clothes and puts it back into programs that depend on the community. So it may be it’s a mentorship program, or maybe yeah, maybe it’s something like money towards transitional housing. That’s how Goodwill works. But they’re all other kinds of places you could donate, like, there might be bins in your community where you can, you know, just throw your clothes in there. And sometimes that’s just textile recycling. So if you think your clothes aren’t really –can’t really be worn again, then that would be a good place to bring them because then at least maybe you know, they’re getting recycled, right? If you trust the organization that that made – that’s running that bin. But if you want your clothes to go directly to someone in need, there are also smaller organizations that do that, like I know of one that you can bring office attire for women, and that then is given directly to women who need it. And some women shelters take donations like that. You can look for particular organizations in your community that do that. So yes, it depends on what doing good means to you, I think.

 

Reema Khrais: Yeah. Wow. That’s a great answer. I feel like that answered my question about this. It’s because I feel like I don’t know about you. But I always have a bunch of like, every year I go through my closet, put it in a garbage bag, and then I put in my car. And sometimes it stays in my car longer than it should. But I try to donate. But I think all of it just makes me realize how much stuff we have. We have so much clothes. Americans in particular I saw this stat that we buy five times more clothing than we did back in the 1980s. And a lot of charities and thrift stores they just can’t handle the amount of clothes that we’re giving them apparently. Yeah, and I feel like obviously a big reason is fast fashion. It’s just so much easier to buy things and then toss it.

 

Marielle Segarra: Yeah, I mean if your concern is the environment, then the place to start is by buying less, and being more particular about what you buy and how it’s made.

 

Reema Khrais: Right? Yeah, I’ve been trying to become more intentional about that. Whenever I buy something I’m like, “How much am I actually going to wear this?”

 

Marielle Segarra: Yeah. It’s hard. I mean, some of it’s expensive. Some, you know, sustainable fashion is expensive. But I guess our argument is that it’ll last you potentially longer. And if you buy more staple items, and things that I’m wearing a sweater right now from a company that they, they plant a bunch of trees every time you buy an item from there, but yeah, also, these sweaters have lasted me a long time. And it’s just a gray knit sweater, but I can wear it over and over again. I have it in gray, I have it in black, you know. So there’s there’s that argument, but it is, of course, a little less fun. It’s a little harder to find the stuff that that’s like, you know, a going out outfit or something with a pattern. That’s one trade off, I guess. But

 

Reema Khrais: Before we move on to the next question, I did come across a study that I found pretty interesting, where they surveyed a bunch of women, and found that the majority of fashion purchases were only worn seven times. And a third of them considered clothes old after wearing them fewer than three times, which like, really?

 

Marielle Segarra: That can be made worse by Instagram, I think.

 

Reema Khrais: Right? Totally. Yeah.

 

Marielle Segarra: Not wanting to be seen in the same outfit over and over again. That’s why if you have a black sweater, it’s it’s not such a big deal. If your uniform is a black sweater and jeans, then people expect to see you and that you don’t have to really worry about it.

 

Reema Khrais: True.

 

Marielle Segarra: Yeah.  Well, our last question comes from Soma, who says, “I cook quite a bit. And lately I’m finding that the cost of garlic has skyrocketed, what’s going on?”

 

Reema Khrais: What is going on with garlic. So before we knew that there was gonna be a pandemic, back in February of 2020, the Wall Street Journal actually came out with an article that said garlic prices were up because of quote, a new pneumonia-causing virus had slowed production. So at that time, China was responsible for as much as 80% of global garlic supply, which I had no idea that’s so much. And we reached out to a US based garlic farmer, his name’s Ken Christopher, of Christopher ranch. So he says that California garlic, it makes up about half the total supply of garlic consumed in the US. And the rest is imported from China and Spain and Argentina and Mexico, mostly. And so all of that imported stuff, obviously, as we’ve been reporting on on a lot of our programs saw a lot of problems at the ports. And so that drove up demand for US grown garlic. And so with that, the prices have increased over the last couple of years. And then, you know, demand has obviously shot up the during the pandemic, since all of us are apparently trying to become chefs. And so, and garlic, apparently, is only harvested once a year. So it’s a very narrow window to get what you need ready.

 

Marielle Segarra: Oh interesting.

 

Reema Khrais: Yeah, which I didn’t know. And unlike a lot of other industries, that sector is facing labor shortages, because of Omicron. Also disrupting the supply chains. It’s just external factors beyond their control, like weather being in a drought. Last year, a lot of farmers in California were complaining about that some of them had to rely apparently, on emergency water sources, which can get really expensive. And that of course, that cost is felt by the consumer. We are the ones unfortunately, who bear the costs.

 

Marielle Segarra: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, it’s interesting. So we have interviewed or Kai has interviewed Ken Christopher before on the show, and like you were talking about that demand for garlic jumped during the lockdowns because people were cooking more at home. Right. It reminded me of this interview that Kai did with Ken in 2020, because he was talking about how the kind of garlic or the way that the garlic is processed depends on who it’s for. So it’s similar to like in the dairy industry, if you’re processing cheese, there are different factories and machines that are used to process a huge wheel of cheese, I think versus a small thing of cheese, and you use different packaging too and so if you suddenly have to shift to making a lot more for at home individual consumption, rather than selling to restaurants, right, you need totally different machines and assembly lines. And that’s true for garlic as well because restaurants traditionally buy prepeeled garlic. And then for retailers, they buy the garlic that’s you know, wrapped up the way that you would in a store, that’s still in its in its shell. I don’t know what to call it, the way the way you typically buy it. And so they have to adapt now they’ve had to adjust their supply chains and now also can cause some disruptions.

 

Reema Khrais: Hmm, that’s interesting. I love the prepeeled garlics by the way, just use making cooking so much easier.

 

Marielle Segarra: You have to use it kind of quickly.

 

Reema Khrais: Yeah, that’s true. It goes bad pretty quickly.

 

Marielle Segarra: Yeah, mine always gets those like green shoots that pop up. I always still try to use it, but…

 

Reema Khrais: Same! I feel like every time I always Google can you use garlic…

 

Marielle Segarra: Is it poisonous, right?

 

Reema Khrais: Exactly.

 

Marielle Segarra: The number of times I’ve Googled, “is this poisonous” like, I think I called poison control once when I ate a grape that tasted weird.

 

Reema Khrais: Oh, no.

 

Marielle Segarra: They were like “What are you even worried about?” I just said it tasted like chalky. I’ve revealed too much. Yeah, I’d like to take that back.

 

Reema Khrais: No, I feel you though. I get like that too.

 

Marielle Segarra: Okay, on that note, that is it for us today before I reveal too much. Tomorrow Kai will be back for Hollowed Out Shell Thursday and he will be joined by Marketplace’s Justin Ho.  Keep sending your questions and comments or something that made you smile we are at makemesmart@marketplace.org. Or leave us a voicemail. Our number is 508-827-6278 also known as 508-UB-SMART.

 

Reema Khrais: Nice. Make Me Smart is produced by Marissa Cabrera – is the theme music supposed to be going?

 

Marielle Segarra: Yeah it is going.

 

Reema Khrais: There we go, okay. I wasn’t hearing it on my end. There we go Make Me Smart is produced by Marissa Cabrera and Marque Green. This was engineered by Charlton Thorp and our intern is Tiffany Bui.

 

Marielle Segarra: Ben Tolliday and Daniel Ramirez composed our theme music and our senior producer is Bridget Bodnar.

 

Reema Khrais: Nice.

 

Marielle Segarra: Are you cooking dinner tonight?

 

Reema Khrais: Dude, I was just thinking that I have some old garlic. So I need to find out what I can make.

 

Marielle Segarra: You could usually make a pasta with that. Yeah, there’s something you can throw together. Do you have any like protein?

 

Reema Khrais: No negative I need to go grocery shopping stat.

 

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