Toronto resident Natasha McKenna describes her discovery of garbage bags filled with unsold Carter’s OshKosh baby and child clothing items — left to be sent to the landfill — as disgusting and wasteful.
“I know this is a practice in retail, but to me everything looked good but destroyed,” said McKenna.
The items including gloves, snow pants, toys, and other clothing had been cut up or destroyed and placed in clear plastic garbage bags by the sidewalk outside one of its stores located in Dufferin Mall. Global News could not determine how the Carter’s OshKosh clothing items were damaged.
McKenna posted on Facebook Tuesday night to share her frustration and show pictures of the destroyed clothing. In less than 48 hours, her post was shared approximately 10,000 times.
“In this time when we’re thinking about waste and our climate and so many children in need like, I think people really connected with the message I was sharing,” said McKenna.
In a statement sent to Global News on Wednesday, Carter’s Inc. spokesperson Lindsay Rider said “the safety of children” is the company’s “number one priority.”
“Our policy is to dispose of damaged or unusable product to prevent any potential harm to our customers,” she wrote.
“We contacted our store in Canada and determined the items in question were damaged or unusable and disposed of properly for safety reasons.”
But the executive director of Fashion Takes Action, a not-for-profit that aims to address the impacts of fashion, said the retail practice of destroying returned or unsold merchandise is widely practiced.
“It is not widely known but it is widely practices and unfortunately this particular brand got caught,” said Kelly Drennan.
She cited a few reasons for the wasteful retail practice. First is the financial incentive called the “federal duty drawback,” which she said helps to perpetuate the practice.
“It’s issued through the Canadian Borders Services Agency … the federal government will give you a credit on your next import duties if you landfill or incinerate those unsellable goods,” said Drennan.
She said other reasons for the practice of dumping damaged clothes include the notion that a brand might be devalued.
“God forbid, a homeless person goes into the dumpster, finds these garments and starts walking around wearing this brand,” said Drennan.
In the meantime, the Carter’s OshKosh Facebook page received plenty of disapproving comments.
“If you choose to do this again, PLEASE call me! I live near an early years centre — single mothers who struggle. I will pick these items up, remove all your tags, and find them new owners,” Maria Nador wrote.
Ruth Oosterman said it was “time to do major damage control and reevaluate your environmental priorities.”
“If this post is true, it’s absolutely disgusting on so many levels,” Emily McHugh wrote.
Drennan and McKenna both agreed that in order for the practice to stop, it comes down to regulations and policy.
“If our government is rewarding retailers for shredding and landfilling or incinerating those goods then what’s to prevent the retailers from continuing to do that,” she said.
Drennan also encouraged consumers to ask their favourite retailers about their policies with returned or unsold merchandise. Lastly, she also recommended shopping at thrift or second-hand stores.