Ghana – The rapid fashion boom in the United States is supporting an invisible “salvage market” that sees American clothing waste being shipped to faraway countries where it fill markets, clog beaches and inundate landfills.
The amount of clothing Americans buy has quintupled over the past three decades, but each item is only worn an average of seven times, according to reports. This resulted in more clothes being thrown away than ever.
Many Americans donate their used clothes to charity when they are done with it, assuming it will be reused. But with the increasing number of discarded items and the declining quality of fast fashion, less and less can be resold, and millions of garments are baled and shipped overseas every year.
âAnything they can’t sell in their thrift stores is sold in the ‘salvage’ market,â Liz Ricketts, co-founder and director of the OR Foundation, told CBS News.
âIt’s a long, complicated supply chain that’s completely invisible not just to the average person, but even to the people involved,â Rickets said.
“The United States is the biggest culprit”
In Ghana’s Kamanto market, around 15 million used clothes from Western countries arrive every week. The total population of Ghana is only 30 million people.
âThe whole fast fashion model is built aroundâ¦ making cheap clothes, and the United States is the biggest culprit, exporting more second-hand clothes than any other country on earth,â Samuel Oteng, designer fashion designer and project manager at the Gold Foundation, told CBS News.
Trucks unload bales of textiles – called Obroni Wawu, or “dead white man’s clothes” – at the market, which is a seven-acre maze of more than 5,000 stalls. The balls are bought by the traders in the market – who do not know in advance what is in them – between 25 and 500 dollars each.
But Oteng says upcycling is getting harder and harder because of the poor quality of fast fashion clothes.
âBefore, they had good quality clothes, but now there is a lot of waste,â he said. âI feel like garbage is built into the fast fashion model: overproduce, overproduce, overproduce. At the end of the day, people wear clothes for about two weeks and then throw them away. America. Ultimately, it ends here in Kantamanto. “
“Do not hide under the guise of donations”
The recycling work of Katamanto traders is not enough to reduce the clothing glut created by America’s addiction to fast fashion. It is estimated that 40 percent of all clothing bales sent to Ghana end up in landfills.
And some of the unsold clothing is washed away by the beaches when it rains, creating huge, tangled webs called “tentacles” in the sand.
The Director of Waste Management of the Accra Metropolitan Assembly, Solomon Noi, sent a message to the United States: âDeal with itâ.
âDon’t hide under the guise of second-hand clothing donations and then you send them to us just to cause us problems,â he said.