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Ghana says reports of a "tsunami of textile waste" is inaccurate

By Don-Alvin Adegeest


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Kantamanto Market in Ghana Credits: Kevin McElvaney / Greenpeace

Reports of a textile waste crisis in Ghana have been debunked by the country’s Ghana Used Clothing Dealers Association, who challenge beliefs of uncontrolled pollution and waste.

Ghana is the world’s largest importer of used clothing, with most clothing ending up in Kantamanto in Accra, the world's largest second-hand clothes market.

The Guardian last year conducted a study showing 100 tonnes of garments leave the market daily as waste. About 30 percent is collected by the city, the rest ends up in illegal dumps or ditches and drains. Ghana’s Used Clothing Dealers Association asserts less than 5 percent of imported clothing qualifies as waste.

The Guardian’s photo reportage shows a different scenario, documenting the tragic impact of unsold garments on the local environment, which sees textile waste hanging off cliffs along its coastline, and lagoons and beaches scattered with clothing discards from the West.

Atobrah Binkley, General Secretary of the Association, asserts that the perpetuation of what is described as “inaccurate data regarding the second hand clothing (SHC) trade” must cease, urging accountability from those responsible for disseminating misleading figures. The report underscores the trade's pivotal contribution to mitigating climate change, tackling waste, and countering the adverse impacts of fast fashion, while also sustaining livelihoods and bolstering Ghana's economic landscape.

Ghana relies on textile imports

Ghana, of course, has significant socioeconomic reliance on textile imports, and the Association is keen to show the positive aspects, such as fostering resourceful entrepreneurship. The Association is calling for a critical reevaluation of the misconceptions surrounding the trade, urging policymakers in the Global North to reassess their assumptions and engage with the nuanced realities of Africa's agency in the SHC market.

Amidst the influx of cheap, fast fashion worldwide, the quality of discarded clothing reaching Ghana continues to deteriorate. According to multiple reports, as much as 40 percent of imported garments in Ghana are deemed unusable, ultimately culminating in waste.

Sustainable Fashion
Textile Waste