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Secondhand Market as a Form of Circular Economy

Written by : Salma Nurulhuda – Community Engagement and Coordinator Intern

The conventional process in which people are doing business could be drawn as a straight line with raw materials at the starting point, which then goes through manufacture, and goes to the consumer, and finally ends up in landfills when users throw it away. This applies for all kinds of products, including clothes. The clothing industry is one of the top contributors to pollution and textile waste, and the majority of them still have linear chain. There are many disadvantages that come with this economic model. A transformation to a more sustainable circular economy needs to take place.

A circular economy is a new economic model that proposes cyclical chain based on restorative and regenerative design to retain the highest utility and value of products, components, and materials. The advantages of circular economy are the ability to address challenges regarding resource for businesses and economies, generate growth, create jobs, and reduce environmental impacts (Ellen MacArthur Foundation, 2015). According to the usage phases, circular models could be divided into three: circular design in the pre-use phase, optimal use in the use phase, and value recovery in the post-use phase.

In the circular design phase, companies could design more durable clothes or make clothes out of recyclable materials in participation of sustainable fashion. Although it also comes down to the consumer’s use behavior, whether or not they get bored with a garment before even wearing it to its maximum capacity, leading to a shorter use phase. One way to tackle the problem from the consumer’s side is to practice lateral cycling when getting rid of wearable clothes. Instead of letting them uselessly pile up in the closet or sending clothes to landfills, consumers could resell their clothes or donate them to secondhand charity flea markets.

Secondhand markets are good example to prolong the use phase of a product.

Through secondhand markets, clothes that are still in good conditions don’t go straight to landfills once the owner decide that they no longer need it, but the clothes find new owners that could use them up. The advantage of a secondhand market stretches when held in low income neighborhood as it could help provide a chance for the families to purchase clothes at a cheap price. As Gwilt and Rissanen (2012) stated, the lower the price of clothes, the shorter the relationship between customers and clothes. However, the vulnerable community such as that in the riversides of Gajahwong, Code, and Winongo, in which the River School team of Project Child Indonesia conducted a secondhand market last March, live their day-to-day lives by the income that only covers basic necessities and have little to spare on shopping clothes, therefore they have more incentive to utilize the clothes for a longer period of time before they decide to throw it away due to the depletion of the product’s quality (i.e. the clothes are worn out to its maximum capacity). 

Another advantage of secondhand markets, more specifically charity flea markets, is that they provide a source of income for non-profit organizations (Stötzer, et. al., 2020), therefore wealth could be more distributed for good causes. In summary, the world needs to transform to a more circular business models, which needs participation from various levels of stakeholders, including consumers, and one way to achieve that is through secondhand markets.

Sources :

  • Ellen MacArthur Foundation. 2015. Towards A Circular Economy: Business Rationale for An Accelerated Transition.
  • Gwilt, A., Risannen, T. 2012. Shaping Sustainable Fashion: Changing the Way We Make and Use Clothes. Routledge
  • Stötzer S., Andeßner, R., Scheichl, S.  2020. Charity flea markets – an amalgamation of product philanthropy and volunteering. International Review on Public and Nonprofit Marketing