This story was originally posted by Greenpeace Africa.
For several years now, my country Ghana has been dealing with a silent plague: second-hand clothes. Behind its booming cocoa industry, vibrant culture and delicious food, this plague is choking our water bodies and toxifying our land. Why do I call them a plague? Because of the huge volumes of Western exports of discarded fast fashion.
Ghana was once declared home to the world’s largest electronic waste dump, due to the tonnes of e-waste being dumped into the country. But many are not aware of the further burdens that wealthy countries, especially in Europe and North America, continue to place on us.
For those reading this and living in the West, have you ever considered what actually happens to your clothing when you donate them? And do you assume donations end up in your home town or city? Well to answer that question – a lot of it comes to cities in Africa like Accra, flooding our flea markets before choking our rivers and lagoons, polluting our beaches and destroying marine life in our ocean – places they really shouldn’t be.
Second-hand clothes have long been important to Ghana’s local economy. Kantamanto market in Accra, established in the 1970s, is one of the largest second-hand markets in the world, with over 30,000 workers who sell, clean, repair and upcycle the Global North’s textile waste. But the growth of fast fashion since the 2000’s has led to increasing quantities of poorer quality clothing, and