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Need to Know

Ghana’s Waste Crisis: Fueled by the West’s Unwanted Fashion

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Ghana’s capital city, Accra, is home to West Africa’s biggest secondhand clothing exchange: Kantamanto markets, “a bustling labyrinth of 5,000 retailers and their timber stalls, many of them overflowing with the West’s unwanted fashion.” In recent years, however, the supply of used textiles has decreased in quality. At the same time, the “sheer volume of clothing” being manufactured—and cast off—around the world has increasingly contributed to Ghana’s waste crisis. “Thirty million people live in Ghana and yet 30 million garments arrive every two weeks.” 

“Seventeen years back [when I started importing secondhand clothing] it was good,” noted Emmanuel Ajaab, “but now what they are bringing to Africa, to Ghana…they are continuing to reduce the quality that was given to us. Now it’s very bad.” Importers like Ajaab can spend as much as $95,000 on a container of clothes and have no idea what they’re buying. If the clothes inside are “torn or stained, or long out of fashion, their importer may as well have put a torch to their money.”  

Accra’s waste manager, Solomon Noi, shared a similar sentiment: “Close to 40 per cent of whatever shipments that are coming on a daily basis ends up to be complete chaff of no value. We have become the dumping ground for textile waste that is produced from Europe, from the Americas and [elsewhere].”  

Accra can process 2,000 metric tons of waste per day. But the city is currently producing almost double that volume, in large part due to the secondhand clothing waste. Some of the waste fabric gets washed into the sewer system and waterways. And, “much of it is burned, sometimes in small pyres on street corners, sometimes in huge bonfires of cotton and plastic…which blacken the skies for days at a time.”  

View the original article here. 

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