Fast Fashion Industry Urged to Take Responsibility for Clothing Waste Crisis in Global South
ACCRA, March 31 – The volume of discarded clothing from industrialized Western countries is causing a major problem in developing nations, known as the Global South. Calls are growing for the fast fashion industry to be held accountable for overproduction.
Every week, around 15 million pieces of second-hand clothing are shipped to Accra, the capital of Ghana, from Europe, North America, and Asia. This has made it the largest used clothing market in the world. However, according to the Accra-based All Foundation, almost half of the imported clothes end up being thrown away instead of being reused. The group is campaigning for compensation for the pollution caused by the consumption boom in distant countries.
Solomon Noy, head of Accra’s waste management authority, stated, “Many of these clothes should be disposed of in their own country, but they are brought here in compressed packaging. Fast fashion accelerates waste. We shouldn’t expect them to continue using us like this, using our taxes to clean up their overuse.”
Noy explained that hundreds of tons of textiles, from clothes to rags, are discarded daily, causing drainage and waterway blockages while polluting once-pristine beaches and destroying the ocean floor. He added, “This country is not the dumping ground of the developed Western world.”
Accra is one of many major import centers in Africa that buy used textiles in bulk and reuse them for the domestic market. However, Noy revealed that the second-hand clothing market discards at least 100 tonnes of textiles each day, while Accra’s garbage trucks can only transport up to 30 tonnes. During rainy periods, discarded clothes accumulate in unauthorized rubbish dumps and end up in waterways and beaches.
Kantamanto, one of the largest second-hand clothing markets in the world, is situated behind abandoned train cars in Accra. Over 30,000 street vendors sell crumpled polo shirts, old bags, and worn shoes, including popular Western fashion brands and counterfeit products from Asia.
Abena Essoon, a former second-hand clothing seller who is now an activist, spoke about the poor quality of the clothes she received from London, stating, “Most of the old clothes were stained, had paint or oil on them, or had tears. I sold half of them and threw the rest away. We can’t pay back the money we borrowed because we don’t make a profit. We have to do something about it.”
Due to frustration among street vendors in Kantamanto and waste authorities in Ghana, there is an increasing call for wealthy nations to stop exporting waste disguised as second-hand clothes and provide compensation for the losses suffered by developing countries.
The fast fashion industry’s overproduction is identified as a major underlying issue. The fashion industry produces 100-150 billion items each year, with production numbers doubling over the past two decades. According to the World Economic Forum, the clothing industry generates nearly 10 million tonnes of waste annually, a figure projected to increase by at least 50% by 2030.
Noy and Essoon, alongside other street vendors, have been lobbying European leaders and participating in forums to push for the introduction of extended producer responsibility (EPR) in the fashion industry. EPR would hold clothing brands accountable for the lifecycle of their products. Currently, France is the only country that has implemented an EPR system for clothing, but the European Union plans to follow suit.
Ghanaian activists are calling on the EU to ensure the proposed fees for clothing manufacturers are allocated to the second-hand clothing supply chain, benefiting countries like Ghana and specifically focusing on the Kantamanto region, which has been most affected by pollution.
Furthermore, activists are urging brands to disclose their production quantities and commit to reducing production by 40% within the next five years to address the clothing waste crisis at its source.
Liz Ricketts from the All Foundation stated that compensation would benefit street vendors who are forced to sell inferior and discarded goods, as well as help Ghana recover from the devastation caused by this crisis. She emphasized, “We need real ecological compensation for this pollution.”
ACCRA, March 31 (Thomson Reuters Organisation) – The vast amount of clothing that industrialized Western countries have shed, including last year’s must-have dresses and yesterday’s popular products, is plaguing the South So called Global. There are growing calls for the fast fashion industry to be held responsible for overproduction.
About 15 million pieces of second-hand clothing arrive in Accra, the capital of Ghana, from Europe, North America and Asia every week in compressed packages. It is the largest used clothing market in the world.
According to the Accra-based All Foundation, almost half of the clothes imported are thrown away rather than reused. The group is campaigning for compensation for pollution caused by the consumption boom in distant countries.
“Many of these clothes should be disposed of in their own country, but they are brought here in compressed packaging. Fast fashion accelerates waste,” said Solomon Noy, who heads Accra’s waste management authority. “We shouldn’t expect them to continue using us like this, using our taxes to clean up their overuse.”
Noy told the Thomson Reuters Foundation that hundreds of tons of textiles, from clothes to rags, are thrown away every day, clogging drains and waterways, polluting once-barren beaches and destroying the ocean floor.
“We collect old clothes discarded from beaches and waterways every week. Landfill sites are full. This country is not the dumping ground of the developed Western world,” said Noy.
Garment waste produced by big brands and consumers is taken to Ghana for a second life. Accra is one of dozens of major import centers in Africa that buy used textiles in bulk and reuse them for the domestic market.
Noy said the second-hand clothing market throws away at least 100 tonnes of textiles every day, but Accra’s garbage trucks can only haul up to 30 tonnes.
When it rains or floods, discarded clothes collected in unauthorized rubbish dumps end up on waterways and on their way to the city’s beaches.
In Accra, one of the world’s largest second-hand clothing markets, Kantamanto, is located behind abandoned train cars.
Hundreds of handmade stalls line the streets, displaying crumpled polo shirts, old bags and worn shoes. All of them are popular Western fashion brands.
There are also many counterfeit branded products manufactured in Asia.
Buyers and sellers look through piles of old shirts and women’s clothes and negotiate prices under bright sunlight.
Abena Essoon, 42, set up a stall in the market a year ago, selling second-hand blouses and skirts bought from London to Ghanaian office workers. He is now part of a group of lobbyists who travel around Europe lobbying for help to tackle the clothing waste crisis.
Those taking part in a movement called #StopWasteColonialism say the fashion industry, notorious for overproduction, uses second-hand clothing markets in the Global South to push its waste and demands that a price be paid.
These voices are part of a growing global movement that companies and countries should be compensated for the damage they cause, be it environmental, social or financial. Victims of corruption, slave labor and persecution have all joined campaigns for reparations, with varying degrees of success.
Mr Essoon gradually shifted his focus from selling second hand clothes to being an activist, fed up with the low quality stock being forced on him from London.
“Most of the old clothes were stained, they had paint or oil on them, or they had tears. The other half were rags. I sold half of them and threw the rest away,” he said. the mother of two children, said her mother, Essoon.
“A lot of us borrow money to buy clothes that can’t be sold. We can’t pay it back because we don’t make a profit. It’s a vicious cycle of debt. We have to do something about it,” said Essoon.
Similar anger grew among Kantamanto’s more than 30,000 street vendors, and Ghana’s waste authorities were increasingly frustrated. As a result, there have been increasing calls for rich countries to stop pushing rags disguised as second-hand clothes and to compensate them for losses brought about by exporting waste to developing countries.
According to the All Foundation, Cantamant receives approximately 15 million items of clothing each week from North America, the United Kingdom and Asia, approximately 40% of which are thrown away.
Activists say the underlying problem lies in the overproduction of fast fashion, a cycle of mass-producing low-cost clothing to meet ever-changing trends.
According to the fashion industry information website Fashion United, the clothing industry produces 100-150 billion items each year, and the number of items produced has doubled over the past 20 years.
In a report, the World Economic Forum estimates that the clothing industry produces almost 10 million tonnes of waste every year, and predicts that this number will increase by at least 50% by 2030.
Mr Noy and Mr Essoon, along with other clothing street vendors, have met with European leaders in Paris and Brussels over the past six months, participated in forums run by the Global Fashion Agenda, and encourage increasing producers to discuss the introduction of responsibility (EPR). EPR refers to an environmental policy that holds manufacturer brands accountable throughout the life cycle of their products.
EPR is already used as a process control tool for batteries and electronic products, but its adoption in the fashion world has been slow.
France is the only country that has prepared an EPR system for clothing, but the EU plans to follow France’s example and require EPR for clothing companies operating within the EU.
Under the proposed rules, the EU would collect a per-item fee from clothing manufacturers to help philanthropic companies in the EU raise money for recycling and disposal.
But Ghanaian activists say this approach only benefits EU member states and leaves Ghana’s thriving second-hand clothing market out of the picture.
They are calling on the EU to review its plan and allocate the fees directly to the second-hand clothing supply chain, which includes Ghana, with a focus on the Kantamanto region, which has borne most of the r pollution.
Noy said that such money could be used to fund recycling.
Activists also want brands to declare what they produce and commit to reducing production by 40% over the next five years to end the clothing waste crisis at its source.
According to All Foundation’s Liz Ricketts, compensation has two benefits. It will compensate street vendors who are forced to sell inferior and discarded goods, and will help Ghana resolve the devastation caused by this crisis.
“This is a step in the right direction to get the fashion industry to compensate the Ghanaian communities whose livelihoods, health and environment have been affected by this pollution,” said Ricketts.
“We need real ecological compensation for this pollution.”
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