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Alan Wheeler, of the Textile Recycling Association, which represents second-hand traders, defends the practice."Though much of the clothing donated to charity shops is of a good wearable quality, charities are not able to sell the majority of items in their shops. They can sell on their clothing to second-hand traders, so raising funds for the charity's core activities.Whatever she doesn't sell, she then passes on as a job lot to a Top Shop buyer late on a Sunday afternoon.So a pair of shoes you have donated to charity could end up on the racks of the Oxford Street megastore being sold as 'vintage'."The charities get something out of it and so do people in poor countries.Everyone's happy." Like many charities, Scope also sells off damaged clothes and anything unsuitable for sale in their shops to textile traders at an agreed price per kilogram.Sometimes, the charity never even sees the clothes you donate.In some towns, the charity textile banks you find in supermarket car parks are managed by private contractors.

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But what has made me think twice about the charity shop system is finding out what goes on behind the scenes.

"Scope will extract the best price they can to fund our work," said a spokesman.

"Nothing of value is destroyed or wasted." But I guess companies such as Ragtex UK are not complaining.

Many charity shops sell in bulk to businesses which are paying in weight, not quality (I weep at the thought of all that vintage going to waste).

Much of this re-selling is done abroad - in Africa, Russia and Eastern Europe - which would be fine if you knew they were getting clothing for free, but these poor people are having to pay for clothes which were given for nothing.

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