Ghana — The rise of fast fashion in the United States is supporting an invisible “salvage market” that sees American clothes waste shipped to faraway countries where it fills marketplaces, clogs up beaches and overwhelms dumps.
There has been an increase of fivefold in clothing purchases over the past three decades. However, each garment is only worn seven times on average, according to data. There is now more clothing being thrown away than ever before.
Many Americans give their old clothing away to charity when it is finished. They assume that the clothes will be reused. With the growing number of items that are thrown away and the lower quality of fast fashion clothing, it is becoming harder to sell. Every year, millions of clothes get put in bales for shipment abroad.
” Anything they can’t sell at thrift shops is sold to the’salvage market’,” Liz Ricketts (co-founder, director, and chief executive officer of the OR Foundation) told CBS News. “It is a complicated and long supply chain that is totally invisible not just to the average person but also to those participating,” Rickets stated.
“The U.S. is the biggest culprit”
At Ghana’s Kamanto market, around 15 million items of used clothing from Western countries arrive every week. The entire population of Ghana is only 30 million. The entire population of Ghana is only 25 million.
Trucks offload bales of textiles — called Obroni Wawu, or “Dead White Man’s Clothes” — at the market, which is a seven-acre maze of over 5,000 stalls. The bales are purchased by market traders — who do not know ahead of time what’s in them — for between 25 and 500 dollars each They then clean, tailor, and re-dye what they can of the clothing to give it new life.
But Oteng says upcycling is becoming increasingly difficult because of the poor quality of fast fashion garments.
” “Before there were good quality clothes but they now have a lot more trash,” Oteng said. I feel that waste is becoming a part of the fast fashion model: overproduce and overproduce. People wear clothes for two weeks and discard them. It doesn’t go to America. It ends up in Kantamanto. “
“Do not hide under the guise of donations”
The upcycling work of traders at Katamanto is not enough to reduce the glut of clothing created by America’s addiction to fast fashion. It is estimated that 40 percent of all the clothing bales sent to Ghana end up in landfills. Some of the unsold clothes wash out onto beaches during heavy rains. This creates tangled webs known as “tentacles” that cling to the sand.
The director of waste management for the Accra Metropolitan Assembly, Solomon Noi, delivered a message to the U.S.: “Deal with it.” He said that it was not acceptable to disguise your donation of secondhand clothes and send them to us to create problems for us.