The $ 2.7 trillion fashion industry is one of the largest and most resource-intensive sectors in the global economy, and it has a devastating impact on our environment.
The tremendous success of fast fashion giants like H&M, Zara and Forever 21 is due to their ability to produce massive amounts of clothes – billions of clothes a year – in the cheapest and fastest way possible. A garment often travels through dozens of countries and hundreds of hands, and ends up being worn only a few times.
Consider the statistics:
Quick mode choices end up in landfills.
These numbers, terrible as they are, represent only half of the production of history.
What happens when these clothes are no longer useful or are no longer “in fashion”?
The Council for Textile Recycling reports that the average American throws away between 70 and 81 pounds (30-36 kg) of clothing and other textiles each year. Globally, 17 million tonnes of clothing goes to landfills, mainly in southern countries.
Although many people believe that clothing donation is environmentally friendly, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, 84% of all clothing ultimately ended up in landfills or incinerators in Canada. 2012, even though they were donated.
Not only do the Global North’s fast fashion choices end up in landfills, they often travel thousands of miles – and create tons of CO2 to get there.
Ghana in West Africa is a common dumping ground.
West Africa is a common dumping ground for cheap, discarded and unwanted clothing. Accra, the capital of Ghana, receives around 15 million used clothes per week, or 70 tons per day, of which about 40% are of such poor quality that they immediately go to the landfill.
The rest is sent to be sold in one of West Africa’s largest clothing markets, the Kantamanto Market.
Importantly, Accra’s landfills are already almost fully full and the country is struggling with its own internal waste management issues.
In Ghana, around 12,710 tonnes of solid waste is generated every day, and only 10% of this is collected and disposed of in designated landfills. Waste pickers who spend the day picking up trash and managing recycling and sorting the landfill are working in hazardous conditions. They represent an important part of sorting recyclable materials and waste management in Ghana.
Johnson Doe, president of the Kpone Landfill Waste Pickers Association, is one of hundreds of waste pickers who spend their days in the largest landfills in Accra. He sorts waste and removes recyclables from huge mountains of garbage. He also spends time training and organizing waste pickers to demand fair wages and health care.
âIn Ghana, there are no laws guiding waste pickers,â Doe said. âWaste recycling, waste management, we know a lot. So we decided to organize ourselves seven years ago. We want to be recognized by the community, recognized by the government, and we want to be involved in decision-making to protect ourselves.
Doe said it’s hard to sort so much fabric. âGarment waste is one of the major issues we have faced at the landfill because it takes up more space and when mixed with waste we have a hard time finding and recovering recyclable material. ”
Our clothing choices are no longer sustainable for the environment.
Clothing markets in Accra are feeling the impact of too many clothes. According to OR Foundation, which has studied the Kantamanto market for more than a decade, “the global north is counting on Ghana to participate in a waste management strategy made necessary by relentless overproduction and overconsumption.”
Although many citizens of Accra depend on these clothing distribution sites for their income, the wider impact on the community and the country is significant. Overflowing landfills pollute water supplies, produce constant smoke and generate risky and poorly paid jobs.
âIt’s no longer viable,â said Dr Katherine Duffy, senior lecturer at the University of Glasgow.
âThe most durable clothes we have are the clothes we already own. If we can start to think about care, maintenance, longevity and how we treat these clothes, then we are already starting to think more sustainably.
Duffy recommended ways to think about clothing differently.
“Consumers currently have so much information readily available on the issues associated with the high demand for new garments, combined with the global trend of shorter garment lifespans as well as the environmental and social impact of these. behaviors, âshe said.
âBut I’m also excited about some of the new behaviors that are starting to emerge. We need to focus on the four âRsâ: repair, resale, reuse and lease. These options are really a way for us to think about how we engage with our items as well as how much care and attention we want to give to the garment and how we can preserve it for its next life.