This article is part of HuffPost’s “Reclaim” campaign, an ongoing project spotlighting the world’s waste crisis and how we can begin to solve it.
As Chicago Cubs fans celebrate the team’s long-awaited World Series win, here’s one thing most of them won’t be thinking about: What happens to all the champions gear that was made ahead of time for the Cleveland Indians?
Typically, T-shirts, hats and other gear are produced for both possible winners before any major sports championship, like the Super Bowl or the World Series. The losing team’s mislabeled merchandise doesn’t get trashed, according to the Chicago Tribune. Instead it is donated to charity ― often to the Christian nonprofit World Vision, which fights poverty worldwide.
Last year, Major League Baseball did just that, giving the New York Mets’ not-the-champions gear to World Vision, according to charity spokesman Jim Fischerkeller. World Vision’s local staff then distributed the merchandise to people in need in developing countries.
But this year, MLB is taking a different route: The league will just destroy the gear.
“In past years we have used World Vision, but we have moved our policy to destroying the merchandise,” MLB’s Matt Bourne told HuffPost. “The reason is to protect the team from inaccurate merchandise being available or visible in the general marketplace.”
On its face, destroying mislabeled T-shirts may seem like a less ethical solution than donating them to charity. But the issue is actually a bit more complicated. Experts have found that exporting secondhand clothing from the United States and other wealthy countries to developing nations, where nonprofits and wholesalers hand it out or sell it at low prices, can devastate local clothing industries. Ultimately, all that secondhand clothing may do more harm than good.
World Vision is aware of the problem, Fischerkeller said, and only donates “new” clothing to areas where local staff have determined there is a need and where the product isn’t otherwise available or the people receiving it are not “market participants.”
“The apparel items that we send have all been requested by our staff in the field as part of a larger relief and development strategy,” Fischerkeller said. “Fulfilling the basic need for clothing enables vital resources to be directed towards other life essentials, such as clean water, health services and education.”
When asked if MLB’s decision to stop donating the losing-team gear to charity was motivated at all by the potential negative impact on developing countries, Bourne said he “wouldn’t attribute it to that.”
Bourne could not say how all those T-shirts and other stuff would be destroyed or how much merchandise there is.
But there is one upside to their destruction: Fewer items will exist in the world with the Indians’ “Chief Wahoo” mascot, which Native communities have long protested as offensive.
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