The rise of fast fashion has led to the big problem of waste. Producers are over-producing and buyers are over-buying. The result is mountains of cheap clothing tossed out in the recycling bin. What happens to that clothing after it''s placed in the neighborhood clothing bin? The answer might surprise you. Follow us on a visit to a recycling center in our Sunday special report. We’re in New Taipei’s Shulin District. Next to the entrance, we see a mountain of used clothing piled over two stories high. A recycling worker said he would tell the truth about what he does on condition of anonymity.Recycling workerThis is happening because the regional countries we had sold to are all prospering. Look at China. Before, China imported used clothing. Now it is an exporter. We can expect this in the future – the Philippines is an importing country now, but in five years, it will become an exporter. Vietnam, Myanmar, and Cambodia will become exporters. By the end, the only importing nation will be Syria.Taiwan’s used clothing is losing its overseas markets, one by one. Its export price has dropped like an avalanche.Recycling workerGenerally, it costs NT$10 to collect a kilogram of clothing in Taipei. In New Taipei, it’s about NT$7.5 per kilogram. Then when you sell it at the end – that is, when you export it – the price you get is always NT$1.5 per kilogram.At present, virtually all of Taiwan’s clothes recycling factories operate at a loss. Most are filled with heaps of clothing that have nowhere else to go. There are all sorts of brand names. Some pieces are like new. Others are new with tags still attached. All have been tossed out with an abandon fueled by the frenzy of fast fashion.Stroll through Taipei’s Xinyi District and there are clothing stores as far as the eye can see, drawing customers with seasonal discounts on their affordable trendy styles. Bargain apparel lines the streets, a siren song to pedestrians and their pocketbooks. It’s an incredible shopping ecosystem. Add in online and mobile shopping platforms, and shopping in Taiwan has never been easier. And more than ever before, consumers are ready to splurge.Kathy earns a comfortable living and she dresses to match. One of her routine pleasures is shopping for clothes.KathyThis room is for my clothes. This area is for some of my winter coats. This area is for clothes I like to wear to work, like blouses or sweaters. I hang them up here.Her bed is covered with new purchases that she hasn’t had time to sort. She also has nowhere else to put them.KathySometimes I go on a spree and spend up to nearly NT$20,000 a month. Because sometimes you see a dress you like very much, and say that it comes in four colors. I can’t choose which of the four colors I want. So then, if I think I can afford it, I go for them all and bring all the colors home.The habit of spending big on pleasures and not necessities is commonplace. The result is wardrobes overstuffed with clothing, so much of it that some garments have to be thrown out.KathyThis one I ordered online. I received the product and realized the material was very bad. I have never worn this dress, either. It is brand new, but it doesn’t fit me.Eighty percent of what Kathy picks out from her closet is brand new. And it all goes into the bags and out to the recycling bin.According to government data, Taipei threw out some 3,000 metric tons of clothing in 2017. The clothes come in too fast for the recycling centers to process. Much of it ends up in the incinerator.Lo Ko-jungGreenpeace project managerWith regard to clothing that is discarded, the records show that about 40 percent of it goes to the incinerator. And it’s very likely that the incineration process releases greenhouse gases or gases containing toxic chemicals.According to data provided by Greenpeace, the global clothing industry churns out over 100 billion new items every year. Every stage in the life cycle of a garment, from dyeing to bleaching and finally to burning, does damage to the environment. Taiwanese consumers live in a land of abundance. But just because shoppers can buy, doesn’t mean they should. When spending on cheap clothing goes unchecked, it’s the environment that will pay the price.