Americans Dumping Bales Of Fashion Waste In Ghana

-As Country Firms Position As Biggest Importer of Used Clothes

A CBS feature story has highlighted how Ghana has become a dumping ground for the waste products from the world’s fashion capitals, especially the United States of America.

This fashion waste, shipped off under the guise of donating second-hand clothes end up polluting the country’s environment including its seas and beaches.

Some data shows that Ghana is the biggest importer of used clothes in Africa, followed by Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Tanzania, Benin, Uganda and Kenya.

According to 2013 figures from the United Nations Comtrade Database, Ghana spent $65 million on importing used clothes from the UK.

UK is the second exporter of used clothes after the United States, yet Ghana buys one-tenth of all used cloths exported by the UK.

The UK exports more than £380m ($600m), worth of discarded fashion overseas in 2013.

These clothes according to the BBC were donated to charity homes but ended up being bought by new owners as they were traded off for profit.

Confirming this, Samuel Oteng, a fashion designer and project manager at the Or Foundation, told CBS News: “Before they used to have good quality clothes, but now there’s a lot of trash,”… “I feel like waste is being built into the model of fast fashion: Overproduce, overproduce, overproduce. In the end, people wear clothes for just like two weeks, and then just discard them. The waste doesn’t end up in America. Ultimately it ends up here in Kantamanto,” Ghanaian.” 

A continuous rise of so-called ‘fast fashion’ in the United States is supporting an invisible “salvage market” that sees American clothes waste shipped to faraway countries, including Ghana, where it fills marketplaces, clogs up beaches and overwhelms dumps according to CBS.

According to experts in the industry, the net effect of this curious import is that it is killing the local textile industry in Ghana.

According to the network, there has been a five-fold increase in the amount of clothing Americans buy over the last three decades, but each item is worn only an average of seven times, and then discarded.

And the way many Americans discard used clothing is that they donate to charities under the assumption that it will be reused. However, these charities are themselves inundated with.

With the increasing amount of items being discarded, and the poorer quality of fast fashion, less and less can be resold, and millions of garments are put into bales and shipped abroad every year.

“Whatever they cannot sell in their thrift stores gets sold off into the ‘salvage’ market,” Liz Ricketts, co-founder and director of the OR Foundation, is quoted as telling CBS News.

“It’s a long and complicated supply chain that is completely invisible to not only the average person but even to people participating,” Rickets said.

One of the places where the poor quality used clothes end is Kanatamanto, a used clothes and accessories market in Accra.

As CBS reports the upcycling work of traders at Katamanto is not enough to reduce the glut of clothing created by America’s addiction to fast fashion. It is estimated that 40 percent of all the clothing bales sent to Ghana end up in landfills.

And some of the unsold clothing washes out to beaches when it rains, creating massive tangled webs called “tentacles” in the sand.

The director of waste management for the Accra Metropolitan Assembly, Solomon Noi, is reported to have urged the US authorities to tackle the waste dump in the name of fashion from their end.


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