Photo by tnarik

H&M and Walmart are doing a lot more than slashing prices, according to the New York Times. More literally, the fast-fashion purveyor and a contractor for the big-box chain are also taking box-cutters and hole punchers to unsold merchandise, willfully mutilating otherwise-pristine T-shirts, hoodies, pants, puffy jackets, and even shoes (buh-bye insoles!) before hauling them to the curb with the rest of the garbage.

Garbage in NYC

Photo by mulmatsherm


It’s a dismal state of affairs, especially when the offending parties hail from Manhattan, where nearly a quarter of its 1.5 million residents live below the poverty line. And in case you haven’t noticed, we’re in the middle of a recession in one of most frigid winters on record on the East Coast—even in Tampa, where daily highs have been falling short of normal daily lows.

In case you haven’t noticed, we’re in the middle of a recession in one of the most frigid winters on record.

But the systematic destruction and landfilling of surplus product is more common than you might think, even in this age of corporate social responsibility. (Ironically, H&M just announced a new sustainable apparel line for spring.) Even the Swedes were burning unsold clothes as recently as 2009.

The practice doesn’t make a lot of sense, but retailers do this ostensibly to “preserve brand integrity” and reduce potential liability. Mostly it’s so wily types can’t hawk the castoffs on eBay or return them for cash. A smart business move, perhaps. But the ecological or human thing to do? Not so much.

And if the big-box retailers don’t have a Yellow Pages handy, Vanity Fair has compiled a list of 13 places in the Big Apple that will gratefully accept clothing donations, preferably, we’d imagine, in one piece.

Update: H&M has promised to stop slashing and trashing unsold clothing and instead donate it to charity. Walmart has stated that clothing destruction is atypical of the store’s practices.