Ghana Urges EU To Stop Sending Them Unwanted Clothes
There’s seldom a dull day in the waste management sector, and Ghana’s warning-shot to the European Union about sending them tons upon tons of unwanted clothes is a hot topic heading into the summer.
A group of secondhand clothes dealers were recently in Brussels to advocate for continent-wide legislation banning the practice of offloading surplus clothes to the African country. Labelled an impending ‘’environmental catastrophe’’ by those gunning for change, the millions of clothing items arriving in Accra, Ghana, every day are causing the country considerable economic and environmental hardship. Accra’s Kantamanto Market, the epicentre of the crisis, is one of the biggest used clothing markets in the world and an estimated 100 tons of used clothing are discarded there every day. However, the practice is engrained with a litany of adverse environmental effects and time is running out to resolve the issue.
Traders from the Kantamanto Market are requesting that regulation should both limit the amount of waste dumped in Ghana as well as asking the EU for funds for managing the huge amount of waste given to them. Whilst producers are required to follow extended producer responsibility (EPR) laws that obliges them to be responsible for the disposal of waste created by their products, only one EU country (France) has EPR laws applicable to the textile industry.
The situation is close to approaching critical mass as there is far too much waste for Ghana to handle. Retailers must sift through 55kg of clothing per day, and the vast majority of it is never purchased, instead ending up as waste either in or near water supplies. The bleaches, dyes, and solvents used on the clothes then enter the water supplies, causing damage to marine ecosystems and putting fishermen out of business.
In the ten years between 2010 and 2020, 10 legal dumps (one per year) were forced to close to be reaching full-capacity, and space is quickly running out to store all of the waste from the Kantamanto Market.
Plenty of good can be said of the textiles and clothing industry’s economical benefits, however the trade contributes its fair share of environmental damage, most notably the aforementioned water pollution. The textiles trade is also guilty of causing a considerable amount of deforestation, air pollution, and chemical usage.
The spinning, weaving, and drying processes involved in the textiles trade provides a fertile ground for harmful emissions to emanate from production plants and into the atmosphere. To make matters even worse, the energy used to create textiles is almost always non-renewable.
Unwanted clothes are an under-discussed issue in the waste management sector, but its effects are nothing to bat an eye at. Every human needs clothes on their back, and the sheer amount of clothing in the world means that there are billions of items unaccounted for lingering in the environment, affecting the ecosystems in the process.
The talks between Ghana and the EU will continue to rage on into the summer, though there’s no vacation period for those in West Africa doing their best to manage an ugly situation.