Oxfam’s useless clothes end up as garbage in Africa

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In Kantamanto, the city’s biggest second-hand market, the Telegraph also found Red Cross, Sense and Mind labels.

Britain’s habit of fast fashion makes it the world’s third-largest exporter of second-hand clothes behind the United States and China, according to data collected by MIT’s Observatory of Economic Complexity.

Every year, millions of items are donated to charity shops or placed in textile “recycling” bins, which is seen as a guilt-free way to get rid of clothes that are no longer worn and free up energy. space in cabinets for new items.

The charities have partnerships with for-profit companies known as textile recyclers, who buy the clothes they can’t sell in their stores, sort them and ship some of them overseas, including to the Ghana.

The results lay bare the consequences of this flood of used clothing on developing countries, where waste collection and management systems are struggling to cope.

Ghana, with a population of 30 million, is the biggest importer. Some 15 million pieces of clothing flood the country each week.

Buy a bale of clothes

Most of it goes to Kantamanto initially, and the Gold Foundation estimates that 40% of what comes to market goes to waste.

Often market traders, who buy a bale of clothing without seeing the items inside, get into debt by buying bales that they cannot sell at a profit.

Sellers have told us that they often fail to sell an item because it is poor quality, damaged, outdated, or unsuitable for the country’s market.

Liz Ricketts, co-founder and executive director of the Or Foundation, which monitors the textile market and waste stream, said: “I have never found an Oxfam label in the waste. They are everywhere.

“But Oxfam doesn’t export it, and they don’t want their business to end up there. I don’t think the average person has a clue that the recycling bin isn’t recycling or that it’s ‘a for-profit business.’

Kantamanto’s clothes are “the largest consolidated waste stream in the entire city of Accra, possibly in all of Ghana”, said a report last year by the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, based on the research of the Gold Foundation.

Whole nets filled with clothes

On a wall in the charity’s office is a “responsibility chart”, pinned with the labels most commonly found in the waste stream, including a label from Oxfam.

At nearby Jamestown Beach, local fishermen sometimes drag whole nets full of clothes, rather than the goldfish they need, and a vast tangle of fabric is constantly buried in the sand.

Every week, the association’s staff visit this beach and several other beaches around Accra to check what has been found there. Among the most common brands are British stalwarts Marks & Spencer and Next.

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