Textile recyclers take action to allay export fears


A recent analysis by the Sunday Times newspaper on the export of used clothing donated to charity prompted the UK Textile Recycling Association (TRA) to comment on the role of export markets.

The newspaper published its article on June 27, 2021 under the headline “How the clothes you donate to charity can end up thrown away in Ghana”.

Now, Alan Wheeler, Director of TRA, said it is “important to understand that the second-hand clothing industry is a global industry with clothing imported from all over the world and traded in international markets such as the United States. Ghana ”.

TRA said it’s important to understand the used clothing industry is global

And, the director of TRA also pointed out that the TRA and its members are calling for appropriate regulation of the sector to ensure that only good quality clothing is exported and not wasted.

He points out that the article states that “UK clothing is generally well sorted” and that “in many ways the Kantamanto market … is an example of sustainability well done, employing some 30,000 people and giving new life. life to clothes ”.

“Dead white man”

Mr Wheeler continued: “The fact that Ghanaians use the term ‘dead white man’s clothes’ is actually a comment on the quality of the clothes and the waste in Western society. Thinking being, the only reason Westerners would want to pass on these items of such quality is because the original owner was dead.

“However, the article contains incorrect information and inconsistencies. For example, he mentions that imports of used clothing into Rwanda have been banned. This is not true. The government of Rwanda considered introducing measures to phase out the import of used clothing in 2016, but instead opted for a simple increase in import tariffs.

TRA Director Alan Wheeler

As noted in the article, Ghanaian importers can pay around £ 2,500 per tonne, Mr Wheeler said.

“However, this only applies to good quality second-hand clothing sorted in a robust way, specifically for these markets. This price per kg includes the costs of collection, processing, packaging, loading and unloading, shipping, customs clearance, etc. The net profit generated for businesses in the UK that operate on tight economic margins (which is not addressed in the article) is only a small fraction of the selling price paid in recipient countries and countries. income donated to charities, etc. are generous in relation to that. . The TRA estimates that up to £ 70million is donated annually to charities through the sale of used clothing by charities to the used textile industries.


In a statement to Letsrecycle.com com, Mr Wheeler noted: ‘There are fundamental questions to be asked as to why a wholesaler in Ghana would pay £ 2,500 per tonne for used clothing, only to throw away the declared quantities and why this wholesaler would continue to order used clothes to a western exporter if they were supplied of such poor quality. The percentage of clothing that would go to landfill is based on research conducted by the OR Foundation as part of a university thesis. This research, the methodology used and its findings have not been subjected to the level of peer review that you would normally expect; especially given the seriousness attached to it.

“TRA and its members are calling for appropriate regulation of the sector to ensure that only good quality clothing is exported”

Alan wheeler

“Unfortunately, there is a growing amount of written commentary on this issue in the media and on the internet that has been produced by people who do not have sufficient knowledge of the used clothing industry and are not in a position to cover important details. If they did, it would give these articles a significantly different perspective.

“However, echoing what was said in the article, TRA and its members are calling for appropriate regulation of the sector to ensure that only good quality clothing is exported and not waste. The regulations are there, but the competent authorities in Europe are not enforcing them effectively and we support the proposals and positive actions that have been put forward in the Kantamanto market, including the establishment of projects in the market to promote repair and recycling clothes and improving market infrastructure to reduce unnecessary waste.

Fashion industry

Mr Wheeler added: “Ultimately, however, it is a question of the sustainability of the fashion industry. The second-hand clothing industry is by far the most sustainable part of the clothing supply chain and contributes the most to addressing the very real climate change and other environmental impacts caused by the clothing industry. fashion. It’s not the second-hand clothing industry that overproduces items the public doesn’t really need. I think most people in the second-hand clothing business buy much less new clothing than most of the public who are all too easily won over by the marketing tactics of retailers.

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