When a truckload of textiles is landfilled or incinerated every second, textile waste isn’t just a fashion industry problem, it’s everyone’s problem. In the face of growing landfills, keeping more clothes in circulation has never been more vital to what we do. At thredUP, our mission is to extend the life of clothing for as long as possible, even items that don’t meet our strict quality guidelines. Sometimes all an item needs is a little TLC, which is why we started the Rescues program.
Today, we want to answer questions we’ve received about Rescues, plus share what we’ve learned about fashion’s impact on the planet (and what we can all do to help!).
What are Rescue Boxes?
Rescue boxes are heavily discounted hauls containing either unaccepted items that don’t meet our strict quality standards or items that have been sitting on our site for too long and we are unable to sell them. More info on our payout schedule here.
Due to our high quality standards, only 40% of the items received in Clean Out Kits are accepted. The remaining 60% are not accepted because they don’t meet our trend or quality requirements. This includes clothes that are missing sizes, items with cosmetic defects (like a missing button or a small stain), brands or styles we have too much inventory of, and any men’s clothing items.
We want to make sure thredUP continues to be the place where you can confidently shop secondhand, knowing that every item online (over 2 million!) is as good as new, but we’re also committed to doing our very best to keep clothing out of landfill.
Why do we offer Rescue Boxes?
Giving an item a second life is one of the best things we can do to reduce our impact on the planet and work towards a more sustainable future.
There is a textile waste crisis. 32 billion garments are produced for the US market each year, and 64% of them end up in landfill. Returning one clothing item back into the circular economy reduces its carbon footprint by 82%.
That’s why we’re committed to making sure every item we receive gets a second chance to live out its full potential, even items we reject.
Why don’t we just donate unaccepted clothes to charity?
The truth is, charities don’t need more clothes. According to the Council for Textile Recycling, only 10-20% of clothing donated to charitable clothing companies is resold back into the community. The rest are sold to recycling companies. We have similar programs in place, but because we don’t have any inventory limitations (we’ve got plenty of internet space!), we’re able to return TWICE as many clothing items back to the US circular secondhand economy, either by being sold on our site or included in a Rescue box. If you choose to clean out using our Donation Kits, you’ll receive a tax receipt on behalf of the active charity partner of your choice for your donation and in exchange for your donated bag, we’ll give $5 per bag to the charity partner.
Do all unaccepted items go into Rescue Boxes?
No. Only 5% of items we reject make it into Rescue boxes. Unaccepted items that don’t qualify for Rescue Boxes are reused or responsibly recycled by our vetted network of textile recyclers. All of our recycling partners must adhere to thredUP’s Aftermarket Partner Code of Conduct—requiring transparency, integrity, awareness of the environmental impact, and respect for developing nations. Together with our partners, we’re committed to returning as many items as possible back into the circular economy and keeping them out of landfill.
Why don’t we pay out for items in Rescue Boxes?
The Rescues program is our way of rescuing some of the millions of items that we receive that still have a lot of life left in them but don’t meet our acceptance standards. We sell them at a deeply discounted price to help us cover some (but not all) operational costs of processing these items. Our main goal is to stay committed to our mission in keeping as many items out of landfill as possible.
We pride ourselves in offering the most convenient service out there to clean out your closet. Unlike peer-to-peer resale platforms, we do the work for you (pricing, listing, storing, and shipping your items). And all of it comes at a cost, whether or not we accept or reject an item. That’s why you might earn less for accepted items compared to other resale sites where you would have to sell them yourself. And why we don’t pay out for any unaccepted items.
Can I take back my unaccepted items and resell or donate them myself?
Yes! Keeping perfectly good items out of landfill is our top priority, even if they don’t go through us. If you would prefer to take your unaccepted items back and resell them yourself, we highly recommend choosing Return Assurance. For a $10.99 fee, we’ll ship all your unaccepted items back to you.
What else is thredUP doing to support the secondhand economy and reduce textile waste?
We’re doing our best to extend the lives of as many items as possible, but we haven’t found the perfect waste-free solution. That’s why we’re constantly scouting for new and innovative ways to keep clothes in circulation, and are proud to support charitable organizations committed to sustainability through our non-profit, the Circular Fashion Fund (CFF).
Got Questions? Let’s Hear It.
Rescues, resale, textile waste, donations, recycling partners, donations—we know it’s a lot of information to digest. Help us keep the conversation going, send us your questions in the comments below and let’s dig in.