8 February 2017 by Will Date

Textile recyclers in appeal over East Africa trade

A delegation from the Bureau of International Recycling (BIR) has travelled to Nairobi to meet trade advisors from the World Bank, to discuss the future of the trade in used textiles to East Africa.

The group included BIR President Ranjit Baxi and Textiles Division President Mehdi Zerroug whose visit to Kenya was focussed on proposals to phase out the imports of used textiles and footwear into the East African Community (EAC) by 2019.

East Africa is an important UK market (picture: LMB)

Backing for the trip also came from the UK’s Textile Recycling Association (TRA) with a number of its members also contributing to the funding of the meeting.

The EAC comprises six countries: Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan. In March 2016, the heads of state of the EAC agreed to phase out used clothing imports with a view to promoting industries in the textile and leather sectors within their own countries.

Trade

The trade in used clothing is an important market for some of the UK’s textile recyclers, with estimates suggesting that as much as 15% of the used clothing exported from the UK finds its way to EAC nations.

And, the trade in used clothing is also thought to be important within the EAC nations themselves, with the imports providing an affordable source of clothing and employment opportunities.

BIR met with trade advisors from the World Bank whose work in Kenya aims to accelerate sustainable growth, reduce inequality, and manage resource scarcity, in a bid to discuss potential for a review of the decision by the EAC on used clothing.

In a statement, BIR said: “The meeting was very constructive and gave BIR representatives the opportunity to explain in detail the benefits of importing primary sorted mixed clothing and to stress the importance of also building the secondary sorting and ancillary industries – production of wipers and other usable products from non-wearable textiles.

“BIR recommended that EAC should promote the import of mixed sorted clothing with a view to enhancing sustainable growth and increased employment and should continue to support those parts of the population that depend on the employment in the sector.”

Evidence

In light of the meeting, BIR is seeking to facilitate research to build evidence on the job creation and other economic, social and environmental opportunities that could be realised if the EAC were to lift its threat of a ban on used clothing imports and encourage a programme to establish used clothing sorting and textile recycling businesses within the EAC.

“I am pleased that some progress has been made in raising this issue on behalf of our sector, which provides an important service for the UK and the East African Community nations. It is now important to focus on building evidence of the potential benefits this can create to gain further momentum in future discussions.”


Alan Wheeler
TRA

Commenting on the meeting Alan Wheeler, director of the TRA, said: “I am pleased that some progress has been made in raising this issue on behalf of our sector, which provides an important service for the UK and the East African Community nations. It is now important to focus on building evidence of the potential benefits this can create to gain further momentum in future discussions.”

The visit was jointly funded by BIR, TRA, as well as trade associations from France, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands; as well as UK businesses J&H Sales International Ltd, TW Beaumonts,  BIU Group, ERC/Soex, Savanna Rags, Lontex, TIC International, Fortune Eximports, Salvation Army Trading Company, JMP Wilcox, LM Barry, TRAID, Nathan’s Wastesavers, Next Best Clothing, Air Ambulance Service Ltd.

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